Debbie’s Fund Plans Golf Tournament

3By Terry Rogers

On Friday, June 12 at 9 AM, Jonathan’s Landing Golf Course in Magnolia will host the 9th Annual “Par for Pets” as a benefit for Debbie’s Fund for Animals. All funds raised will be used to support local animal shelters.

“This is a local event that helps support Kent and Sussex County animal groups,” said Jim Woodland, President of Debbie’s Fund. “It is always a struggle for animal groups to get funding. Animal care is a 24-hour per day business which doesn’t leave those groups a lot of time for fund raising. That’s where we come in. We try to fill in where the state and other organizations cannot, providing funding for small, local animal groups so they can help unfortunate animals.” Mr. Woodland says that cats are a particularly neglected species in Delaware.

According to Mr. Woodland, the state does not provide services to local shelters to deal with stray or unwanted cats. He said that the feral cat population in the state is growing and the method for managing the colonies in the past was to trap and kill them. However, there are now animal groups who are trapping feral cats and either neutering or spaying them in order to reduce the number of feral cats in a colony.

“We recently gave a grant to a group in Milton that is working on this project,” Mr. Woodland said. “The process has shown great success in other states like New Hampshire. Many people don’t think of feral cats as a problem, but we have been lucky here in Delaware. Only two cats over the past year have tested positive for rabies. If an entire colony of feral cats is infected with rabies, it would not take long for it to spread to humans. It would only take a cat to bite one child and that child could be at significant risk of dying.” Mr. Woodland also said that shelters often must put entire litters down when they are brought in, especially if they test positive for feline leukemia or other life-threatening illnesses.

Mr. Woodland said that men and women are welcome to register for the golf tournament. The cost for a foursome is $300 and $75 for a single player. The cost includes lunch and on-course beverages. In addition, individuals and businesses may sponsor holes for $100 or a become a friend to Animals for $250. Hole sponsors will have signage placed at the hole indicating their sponsorship. For $50, a “Pet Saving Pets” sign will be placed with the photo of the contributor’s pet at the tournament.

“This is one of the only two big fund raisers we do each year,” Mr. Woodland explained. “Although we do have smaller fund raisers, such as bingo nights and Carmen Gray does some things for us at the Milford Skating Rink throughout the year, the golf tournament and the Wheels & Wine event scheduled for August 30 are our largest events. Unfortunately, we are not sure we will be able to continue the golf tournament after this year unless we can find a volunteer who would be willing to take the event and run with it.”

Debbie’s Fund, officially named The Debra L. Sipple Memorial Inc., is named for Debbie Sipple, who passed away from a brain aneurysm on January 31, 2004. Ms. Sipple was an avid animal lover who volunteered time at the local ASPCA. Mr. Woodland said that the decision to create the fund was a way to keep Ms. Sipple’s memory alive.

“Her mom was writing her obituary,” Mr. Woodland said. “She called a bunch of us together so we could help her write it. When it came to the part about flowers or donations, we all agreed that Debbie was not much of flower person. One of us suggested donating to the SPCA since she was always there. A lawyer advised us to create an endowment and use it to create a grant fund in her honor instead. Today, we have over $150,000 in the endowment as we have not touched it for ten years.” Mr. Woodland said that they froze the endowment for ten years so that the fund would continue even after the volunteers were no longer active.

Mr. Woodland said that there were seven original members of the organization and six are still active. The only member no longer active is Ms. Sipple’s mother, Thelma, who passed away. However, Mr. Woodland says that they are in need of volunteers who would be willing to step in and take the reins.

“We are all getting on in years,” Mr. Woodland said. “We want this to keep going, and, moneywise, it will because of the endowment. What we need are volunteers willing to take over fundraisers, come up with new fundraising ideas. We would love to do a motorcycle rally, a 10K or even some kind of river swim, anything different that might bring in more funds.”

Mr. Woodland said that he is proud to perform a service for those who are willing to put the time into kennels and sanctuaries. He said that he is always amazed at the time people put into saving animals, often taking money out of their own pocket. The organization has provided assistance to many animal rescue organizations in the state. In addition, the fund has started two programs.

“We helped start the Perfect Haven Cat Rescue in Dover which operates out of PetSmart,” Mr. Woodland said. “They specialize in rehoming older cats. We also helped start another program with three divisions. The Whimsical Animal Rescue focuses on dogs, the Sussex County Animal Association focuses on cats and the Changing Fates group focuses on horses.”

Mr. Woodland said that he had never been involved in a charity before Ms. Sipple’s passing. He said that they provide grant money twice each year and do not require a significant amount of tracking from the organizations. He said that the group is proud of the fact that there is no staff and no significant overhead in operating the fund.

“Almost everything we spend is spent here in Delaware with the exception of some supplies that we can purchase cheaper elsewhere,” Mr. Woodland said. “We have an excellent reputation in the area and good community support. As for me, it is very refreshing to know that there are people out there, like Debbie, who are so passionate about protecting the animals that cannot protect themselves.”

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