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Assisi Animal Foundation to celebrate shelter's 30th anniversary

Nonprofit looking for items to auction in November

Fox Point supportive living resident Diana Vito visits with 14-year-old Assisi Animal Foundation therapy dog Abby in March 2016. AAF will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a dinner dance and auction in November. The group is looking for auction items.
Fox Point supportive living resident Diana Vito visits with 14-year-old Assisi Animal Foundation therapy dog Abby in March 2016. AAF will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a dinner dance and auction in November. The group is looking for auction items.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Not much has changed for Assisi Animal Foundation in its three-plus decades spent sheltering some of McHenry County’s most vulnerable pets.

It still has the same love and concern for animals.

“And that determination to treat them with integrity and compassion,” AAF President Lee Linklater said.

Those principles are what keeps the organization, founded by Linklater and her mother, Isabelle L. Yaroush, going strong as AAF approaches its 30th year operating out of its facility in Crystal Lake. The foundation began operating in Chicago in the mid-1980s before the founding team moved to Crystal Lake with an established 501(c)3 nonprofit.

AAF admittedly was overwhelmed in the beginning, as it was the first no-kill shelter in the county. Not only that, but the organization was stiffed by the original builder of the facility, Linklater said.

However, AAF and its volunteers banded together to open the shelter headquarters for cats and dogs just before Christmas in 1988.

Other pet-saving groups have popped up in McHenry County over the years. But as the local human population grew, the pet population did, too.

“That allowed the burden to be spread out a bit,” Linklater said. “But [the pet] population continues to be high.”

In addition to establishing itself before others, another factor in the long-term success of AAF’s mission is that it also was the first to introduce to McHenry County what now are known as therapy animals, she said.

Before AAF’s facility opened, its members would take some of their first adoptable pets to local nursing homes to boost morale. That practice continues today, and it’s one that now is more common.

“It’s been proven that it’s beneficial to provide those services,” Linklater said. “That is documented at this point.”

Health benefits of interacting with therapy animals include lowered blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as decreased feelings of loneliness or depression, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers also have documented therapy animals as having a positive effect on pain levels and linked them to many other health benefits.

The organization plans to celebrate its 30th anniversary at its annual dinner dance and auction Nov. 3. In light of that, Linklater is looking for some top-notch items to offer at the auction.

“It’s going to be a major fundraiser for us,” she said. “We’re hoping it’s the biggest we’ve had so far.”

To find out about how to adopt a pet from AAF, volunteer, donate, or participate in the annual dinner dance and auction, call 815-455-9411.

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