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A ‘purr-fect’ honor: Fur Kids Foundation receives Key Service Award

Receiving the Key Service Award on behalf of the Fur Kids Foundation were, from left, Steph Kwek (volunteer), Felicia Messimer (board marketing director and founder), Mary Melaragno (board president and founder), Marci Kelhi (board member), Crystal Ninas (volunteer), Sabrina Maston (volunteer) and Tara Beard (board member). (Photo courtesy of Fur Kids Foundation)

On a night various citizens and organizations were recognized and honored, the Fur Kids Foundation received one of the most prestigious awards. The non-profit group on Saturday, Nov. 6, was selected as the 2021 Key Service Award winner by the Chamber of Commerce.

“We are very appreciative and humbled to receive the Key Service Award,” Fur Kids Foundation Board President and founder Mary Melaragno said. “There were some very, very important non-profits nominated for this award, so to be honored among all of them is extremely humbling.”

The Key Service Award is given to a non-profit agency in Campbell County that has demonstrated excellence in carrying out its mission. The Fur Kids Foundation is a 100 percent volunteer organization, from top to bottom, since its creation more than 10 years ago in memory of a furry loved one.

(Photo courtesy of Fur Kids Foundation)

Fur Kids Foundation is dedicated to assisting families with pets afford emergency veterinary care when they cannot afford it. During these tough financial times, families in need of emergency veterinary care have increased and the foundation has been there to help as it has assisted about 900 people to date, according to Melarzango.

Fur Kids Foundation can only help families with animals who need assistance because of the support from businesses, donations from the community and its fundraisers.

“It’s an honor and privilege to be recognized for our service and it’s one that is very much needed in our community,” Melaragno said. “Our volunteers are amazing, hard-working people.”

It’s hard-working because volunteers don’t play with cuddly dogs or playful kittens for fundraisers — most of what volunteers do to raise money requires picking up trash, putting up and taking down fundraising events, hanging up flyers in businesses, stuffing/stamping mailings, scooping poop at Dalbey Memorial Park and even don a Grinch or   Olaf costume for holiday portrait sessions, the founders said in naming just a few of the behind-the-scenes jobs performed by its volunteers.

There are never enough hands or hearts when it comes to caring for pets. To get involved, visit furkidsfoundation.org or join a monthly board meeting which is held via Zoom. For inquires or help, call (307) 363-1131.

Morgan, the foundation’s namesake

Morgan, the Fur Kids Foundation’s namesake, continues to touch lives after her passing as she is the loving heart that paved the way for hundreds of families today receiving medical assistance for their pets. (Photo courtesy of Fur Kids Foundation)

Morgan’s Legacy is on the Fur Kids Foundation logo. It’s in memory of the one beloved pet that lives on through the success of the program. Morgan was a special dog that made an amazing impact on everyone’s life around her, according to the founders.

Morgan taught her parents how to love in a way they never knew possible, was a great ambassador for large breed dogs and knew how to be there for the people when they needed her the most, Melarzango recalls. She loved everyone she met and greeted them with a special butt wag. It was because of her loving spirit that the Fur Kids Foundation was created in 2011.

In August of 2010, three-year-old Morgan the Bull-mastiff found her forever home with Mary and Brandon. On May 26, 2011, she had knee surgery to replace her cranial cruciate ligament that was injured earlier in the year. During a follow up appointment on June 8, the vet noticed that Morgan’s lymph nodes were enlarged, and she was immediately put on medication to try to fight off any infection present.

Morgan followed up with the veterinarian seven days later to see if the lymph nodes were smaller, but six days later she couldn’t get off the floor. That week, Morgan was diagnosed with B-Cell Lymphoma and began chemotherapy immediately.

At that time, Morgan was given a life expectancy of five to seven months. Mary and Brandon looked at Morgan as more than just a pet, she was their fur kid and they knew there was no way possible they were going to give up on her at any cost. They decided they would do whatever they could to ensure her the best life they could give her, even if it would only be a few months.

In July 2011, Mary was shared with friends that she could never imagine being told that her Morgan had lymphoma and not having the means to pay for chemotherapy. How it made her sick to her stomach with overwhelming sadness that there are families who love their pets equally as much as she loved Morgan who may never be able to afford veterinary care and would sadly have to put the animal down rather than fix the injury or fight the illness. That night, the trio decided it was time to start an organization to assist families in Campbell County.

On November 4, 2011 Morgan passed away peacefully in her home with her parents by her side. Melaragno said with the help of great friends and animal lovers alike, Fur Kids Foundation was formed to provide education and aid to promote the well-being of families with animals in Campbell County.

Morgan’s legacy lives on. (Photo courtesy of Fur Kids Foundation)