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Birthday bash celebrating four-legged friends to be held this weekend

By Staff | May 4, 2016

Lily & Co. Jewelers Owners Dan Schuyler and Karen Bell with their loves Angel, Lily and Gracie. MEGHAN MCCOY

An annual event celebrating four-legged friends and the Animal Refuge Center will return to Lily & Co. Jewelers this weekend with an array of activities.

At the young age of 10 weeks old, Lily, the Labradoodle, became a part of Karen Bell’s family, forever changing her life. Bell, who always had a cat, decided she wanted a dog after one of her customers told her to check out the breed, Labradoodle. At that time there were only two farms that raised the breed, which were both located in Australia.

“It took nine months to get her,” Bell said, due to Lily flying from Australia to Los Angeles and then to Southwest Florida. “I got her mid-July.”

Lily’s traveling was done at night with a layover in Los Angeles, where she spent a day, before continuing to her final destination.

“Mommy didn’t know she was the best part of my life,” Bell said while talking to Lily. “She’s been by my side ever since.”

The popular pooch kissing booth, courtesy of the Coral Veterinary Clinic, will again be part of the festivities. PHOTO PROVIDED

Bell, who moved to the island at the age of 21, decided to chose a career in real estate in 1986. After conversing with Dan Schuyler, 10 years ago Lily & Co. opened. Bell said it seemed like a great idea because she had the contacts, and Schuyler had the extensive expertise in jewelry.

“We decided the first year to have a birthday party for Lily,” Bell said, which attracted more than 100 dogs. “Island Paws helped with treats and Sharon (Schuyler’s wife) made the birthday cake.”

From the get-go, the owners of Lily’s & Co. decided they wanted all of the proceeds generated from the birthday party to benefit ARC, the Animal Refuge Center, located in North Fort Myers.

Schuyler said since Betty Hughes, ARC board treasurer, has been a great customer and friend of the store, they chose each other naturally.

“It just happened,” he said of ARC being the beneficiary of the party.

The annual birthday bash attracts many islanders and their pets. PHOTO PROVIDED

Schuyler said Melissa Gribble, another friend and great customer of the store, has been a big inspiration in helping support ARC.

Last year, the event raised a record $18,000 for ARC.

“Supportive businesses like Lily & Co. save many lives that have no options,” Hughes said of the cats and dogs at ARC.

Bell said Lily, Gracie and Angel are all very fortunate.

“We know they are very privileged dogs. Whatever we can do to help, and we know it’s in their hearts, too,” she said. “It became about donations and giving back.”

Rafael Diez will return with caricature drawings this year. PHOTO PROVIDED

The annual birthday bash, held for Lily, Gracie and Angel, will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 7, under a white tent in the parking lot of Lily & Co. Jewelers, 520 Tarpon Road.

The birthday party, which is a celebration of Lily turning 12 on May 4, and Schuyler’s labradors, Gracie turning 13 on April 18, and Angel turning 8 on April 24, is open to all four-legged friends and their owners.

In addition to some returning favorite vendors, Schuyler said the new businesses this year include Bow Wow N Meow offering pet sitting information; Morning Star Dog Training providing tips for an obedient dog; GMI Pet Products, which carries a numbers of pet supplies and Grand Affair Photography.

Rafael Diez will be doing caricature drawings, the popular pooch kissing booth will be provided by Coral Veterinary Care, pet health will be provided by Dr. Patty Curtis, and Island Grooming will provide information on styling a pet, as well as demonstrations during the event. The event will also feature beautiful, elegant resort wear by J. McLauglin.

The popular best dressed dog costume will take place at 2:30 p.m.

Sanibel Catering Company by Bailey’s is donating all of the food – hot dogs and all the fixings for humans. A cake cutting ceremony will be held at 2:30 p.m. featuring pup cakes and a cake for humans.

A raffle including such items as jewelry, including a diamond doggie pendant valued at $900, art and giftware will take place during the bash. Tickets are $5 for one, or six for $25. Tickets can be purchased at Lily & Co. in advance.

Hughes said the birthday bash typically raises between $13,000 to $15,000 a year for ARC. The money raised primarily goes towards the medical surgical fund, which is 20 percent of the center’s annual budget.

“It’s important to fund that particular fund. It’s unique in the county and helps animals that otherwise would have no opportunity to get the help they need and become adoptable. We give them the procedures they need. Because of the way our housing is structured, we are geared toward long-term recovery procedures. Cats and dogs have all the time they need to recover and then we place them up for adoption,” Hughes said.

ARC provides such medical procedures as heart worm treatment, facial reconstruction and bladder surgery for cats and dogs. She said they have a great relationship with all the area shelters, not only in Lee County, but Collier and Charlotte counties, as well.

“The funds raised have a big impact on the lives that need that extra paw up,” Hughes said.

ARC was founded on March 17, 1988, as the largest no kill shelter in Southwest Florida. There are 15,2,000-square-foot cat buildings and 39 air-conditioned dog lodges. She said they have waiting pools for the dogs, as well as an ARC park where the dogs can run and play.

“It’s a different setup as far as housing. There’s lots of room to live in until they do find their home,” Hughes said.

ARC is also a sanctuary for the population of dogs and cats that are harder to adopt out.

The shelter averages 400 to 450 animals on any given day.

For more information about the birthday bash, call (239) 472-2888, or visit www.LilyJewelers.com. For more information about ARC, call (239) 731-3535, or visit www.AnimalRefugeCenter.com; www.facebook.com/AnimalRefugeCenter or www.facebook.com/LilyandARC.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.