INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Heritage Center was transformed into a cozy Italian bistro this weekend at the H.A.L.O. No-Kill Shelter’s eighth annual fundraiser. Twinkling lights filled the rafters, as did the wonderful aromas of lasagna and chicken piccata, which had had guests eagerly anticipating the delicious dinner.
Karen Fulchini of Baci Trattoria introduced some unique elements to the event, including a Barista Bar with cappuccino, expresso and biscotti. A popular wine tasting table also lured a steady line of guests.
Rather than standard Chianti bottle candles, organizers had arranged herbal centerpieces, each with a balloon floating overhead that featured a photo of a rescue animal. Throughout the evening, the sound of balloons popping signified that those animals had found a sponsor.
“We really could not have done all this without the help of Karen. She not only connected us with the wine tasting and the bakery, she also fed us at all our meetings,” said Jacque Petrone, who founded H.A.L.O in 2006.
The affection of attending pet owners for the organization’s unstoppable leader was clearly evident, with Petrone unable to walk more than five feet without someone stopping to hug or thank her for the work she does to save animals.
“I cannot believe what Jacque has done for our community,” said Walt and Kathy Pardington, neighbors of Petrone who have two rescues they adopted from H.A.L.O.
“We really wanted a chocolate Labrador and a yellow one. We waited two years before a chocolate lab became available. Then two years later she had a yellow one,” said Walt Pardington.
“Now we have our labs who joined our three cats who just showed up at our door one by one. God bless Jacque and H.A.L.O. for our beautiful family,” added his wife.
Many people look for designer pets or a specific breed and may not initially consider a shelter during their search. However, saving a rescue is a great option, even if it takes a bit more patience.
“In eight years we have saved over 8,000 dogs and cats,” said Petrone as the audience cheered. “H.A.L.O. started as my dream to save every animal in a no-kill shelter and every one of you made my dreams come true. Your understanding has led me here.”
Petrone said her mother was her first sponsor, and as she looked out at the packed room filled with supporters and sponsors added over the years she grew emotional.
“Everything in my heart leads me to do what I do and because of you we are growing stronger every year,” said Petrone, whose goal is to make Indian River County 100 percent no-kill one day.
Board member Margaret Wall and committee member Brittany Swartz estimated that the event would raise approximately $25,000. H.A.L.O. has their eye on a possible animal sanctuary in the future and has plans to also open a storefront at the Indian River Mall.
“We have to care for the animals,” said supporter Lorne Coyle, “because other than God, who loves you so unconditionally?”