September 2, 2014
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Picture-perfect fundraiser pairs celebrities, homeless pets
Brad Smith
PUPPY LOVE: To raise funds and awareness for the East Greenwich Animal Protection League, a non-profit, no-kill shelter for homeless animals, volunteer Kim Kalunian organized “Animal Prints,” a silent auction featuring some of the state’s biggest names. Here, Erika Van Pelt of American Idol Season 11 poses in front of the Providence Performing Arts Center with Teddy, a shelter dog.

For the second year in a row, Warwick resident and East Greenwich Animal Protection League (EGAPL) volunteer Kim Kalunian has coordinated a fundraiser that has tails wagging – literally.

“Animal Prints,” a silent auction and gallery of images that showcases shelter animals alongside some of Rhode Island’s most notable names, will take place April 12 at Crestar Picture Framing, with proceeds to benefit the EGAPL, a non-profit, no-kill shelter for homeless animals.

Last year, Kalunian and other volunteers helped raise nearly $4,000. This year, local “celebrities” such as Governor Lincoln Chafee, former Rhode Island Attorney General Arlene Violet and American Idol Season 11 finalist Erika Van Pelt took time out of their busy schedules to pose for portraits with homeless cats and dogs. They hope to raise more funds, plus awareness.

Van Pelt, owner of Van Pelt Entertainment, as well as a 2003 South Kingstown High School graduate, enjoyed having her photo taken to promote the cause.

“I had tons of fun at the shoot,” said Van Pelt, who posed in front of the Providence Performing Arts Center. “I love animals and I was happy to do it. It always feels good to help animals, especially here in Rhode Island. We are their voice.”

Being a voice for these animals is exactly the aim of the event, said Kalunian, a digital producer and reporter for WPRO who has been volunteering with the EGAPL for at least two years. She spends each Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the shelter during visiting hours to care for the animals and engage with guests who are considering adopting a shelter pet.

“They are sweet, loving animals that are in need of a home,” Kalunian said. “This is their second chance. The most rewarding part about being involved with the League is seeing these animals getting to go home with people who love them and are going to take great care of them.”

Kalunian said the images in the silent auction are in need of good homes, too. She also said they are works of art, as two local photographers, Brad Smith and Stacey Doyle, donated their time to take the high-quality shots at various Rhode Island landmarks. Spots include the State House, NYLO Hotel, McCoy Stadium, Goddard Park, Warwick Mall, and more.

“These are iconic locations that people will be able to recognize,” Kalunian said. “It’s not only the faces in the photos that will be familiar, but the places, too.”

Chafee and Violet, however, were photographed at their respective homes. The governor even posed with his own feline friend.

“The photographer said he just scooped up his cat and wrapped it around his neck like a scarf,” said Kalunian. “The picture is really adorable.”

Violet, who in 1984 became the first female Attorney General in the country after serving as a nun for the Sisters of Mercy religious order, was also photographed with a cat.

“She was like, ‘This is fun. I don’t usually interact with cats since I’m allergic to them,’” said Kalunian. “She was a really good sport.”

Of course, when working with animals it is expected that mishaps such as these will occur. That was the case during a shoot at Oakland Beach.

“The dog slipped out of his collar,” Kalunian said. “Thank goodness that we are all trained to work with animals and we got the dog back on its leash.”

Other shoots went more smoothly, including one at the Warwick Mall that featured youngsters from Children’s Wishes, an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening illnesses. Mall officials shut down the carousel for about an hour so they could take shots of the children on the merry-go-round with a few puppies.

“It was the cutest thing ever,” Kalunian said, noting that the proceeds from the two photos from the Warwick Mall shoot will be evenly split between EGAPL and Children’s Wishes.

Dana Hrabcsak, the executive director of Children’s Wishes, is thrilled of the partnership. She said wish children Mia and Nicholas had a “wonderful time” during the shoot.

“Not only will this opportunity help to grant wishes of future wish children and benefit the EGAPL mission to save homeless animals, but it gave Mia and Nicholas a fun and special experience that they and their families will cherish,” Hrabcsak said.

The partnership also gave Hrabcsak the chance to combine her two passions: Children’s Wishes, as well as helping animals, as she recently adopted a black lab mix puppy named Gummy Bear from the EGAPL.

“They asked me to bring him to the photo shoot and we took some pics together,” said Hrabcsak, noting how impressed she is with the League’s efforts. “He is just the sweetest thing [and] I’m truly thankful for him.”

Aside from the children, and the models already mentioned, local celebrities include WPRO Personality and Host Tara Granahan; Paws, the PawSox Mascot; 92 ProFM’s Barbi Jo Dimaria; Michaela Johnson, “The Rhode Show” co-host; Ted Nesi, host of “Executive Suite” on WPRI; Loren Petisce, Cat Country 98.1 DJ; Joe Wilson Jr., Trinity Repertory Company member; Tom Gleadow, Gamm Theatre and Trinity Rep actor; Tony Estrella, artistic director of the Gamm Theatre; Frank O’Donnell, comedian and host at Twin River’s Catch a Rising Star; and Haley Star, drag queen creator of YouTube’s “Haley Star Show.”

Kalunian said many of the stars that were photographed would be in attendance.

“It’s going to be a really fun night,” she said. “It’s a fun time for a great cause.”

Crestar Picture Framing is located at 51 Liberty Street in East Greenwich. Bidding for the photos will begin at 7 p.m. sharp, with the silent auction scheduled to close at 9:30 p.m. Admission to the event is $20 and includes light hors d’oeuvres and a complimentary champagne toast. There will also be a cash bar and raffle items, such as a $500 Cardi’s gift certificate, Ke$ha tickets, plus sports memorabilia autographed by New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox players. Entertainment will be provided by Soundscape Professional DJ Services.

To purchase tickets in advance, visit www.animalprints2013.weebly.com. For more information about the East Greenwich Animal Protection League, visit www.egapl.org. Learn more about Children’s Wishes at www.cwishesri.com.


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