“You’re doing what?” That was the question I got asked almost every time I told someone what our volunteers and staff were doing the weekend of April 21, 2017.  The answer, having a slumber pawty at the shelter!
After medical expenses hit hard at the end of 2016, our savings account dwindled to almost nothing.  From parvo support to emergency surgeries and procedures, we do whatever we can to save the lives of the animals in our care. Generally, we like to keep $50,000+ in our savings account in case of situations like this when our rescue numbers are up and thus so are medical expenses.  However, sometimes as well all know, when it rains, it pours.  Multiple litters of puppies broke with the contagious and deadly parvovirus.  In one litter, only one survived.  Because we do everything we can to support them while they fight the virus, expenses for that parvo outbreak alone topped over $10,000.  In addition to our $20,000-$30,000 per month medical bills, this was a tough bill cover.  We needed to act fast.

Program Director, Laura Nelson came to me and said “I have an idea to raise some money”.  I was all

“What a unique fundraiser that was a great experience for all of the humans involved and I think the extra snuggles meant the shelter dogs enjoyed it too!” – Julie Tristan

ears!  She wanted to sleep in a kennel at the shelter to raise money AND raise awareness about her shelter favorite, Baby Bella.  Baby Bella is a pocket pittie mix (DNA results showed her at 75%+ pit bull) weighing in at a whopping 25lbs.  (If you haven’t seen Baby Bella,  you MUST check her out.  She’s adorable and tiny!)

When can I do this again? – Jessica Norris after the Pawty

My thought was, why stop at just one kennel.  Let’s have people stay in all of the kennels for 24 hours and ask them to help us fundraise. From Friday night at 6pm to Saturday night at 6pm, we were on lock down at the shelter!  NO ONE IN OUR AREA HAS DONE THIS, IT COULD BE HUGE! We immediately got more excited and started rallying the troops.  The event was planned, flyers were created and fundraising pages were getting set up.  Each participant had a goal of $1000.  WOW!  What $13,000 would do for us right now!  We thought we’d take it a step further and give ourself a long shot goal of $20,000 and ask some of our corporate supporters if they’d like to sponsor.  $100 sponsorship got your name on the kennel you were sponsoring and $1000 got your name on EVERY kennel participating!  I’ll be honest, I wasn’t convinced we were going to meet our $20,000 goal – we have a lot of events throughout the year and are always asking for donations.

Staff and Shelter Guardians (Shelter Guardians are volunteers paired with shelter dogs to enrich their stay by taking them to training, on outings and help promote them for adoption) were asked to participate first because they were the most familiar and comfortable with the pups at the shelter.  After all, we would be snuggled up with them in a 4×6 ft space for 24 hours.  At our shelter we have 13 kennels and a real life room in the basement (The real life room is a room set up like a living room to give the dogs the chance to experience life in a home.)  The week before the Pawty, kennel and pup assignments were completed.

“Being locked in a noisy smelly box with a bunch of other beings around you is intense for everyone.”
– Jane Posen

Baby Bella and Laura Nelson
Boone and Sara Cordevant
Raanan and Julie Tristan AND Jeanne Sommers (the split time based on availability)
Julia Child and Kimmy Nasti
Ruth and myself and my 5-month old son, Charley (we stayed in the real life room since a kennel wouldn’t be conducive for a baby who needed his mama overnight)
Callista and Jane Posen
Ashley and Jill Wojewski
Chula and Sheila Ford
Louie and Andrea Castleberry
Due and Jessica Norris
Audrey Hepburn and Taylor Snead
Dula and Amanda Frankenburg
Grayson and Missy Cissell

“While sleeping in a cage on a concrete floor isn’t necessarily my first choice for a Friday night activity, it was an amazing experience, and I’d do just shy of anything to help Gateway continue conquering its mission. Save them all!” – Andrea Castleberry

Pretty immediately, the donations started rolling in from our participants’ supporters.  Some people asked family and friends, some asked business contacts and all had a Facebook campaign of some sort.  People everywhere were excited!  And how couldn’t you be, we were spending the night at the shelter (which has always been a secret dream of mine – no idea how it’s taken me this long to do it!)

Oh, I forgot one VERY important and fun part of this event.  WE WERE LIVE STREAMING THE WHOLE THING ON FACEBOOK!  (Fingers crossed nothing crazy happened and all dogs behaved appropriately while live).
We continued to fundraise as we inched closer to the day.  Logistics were in constant motion – what were we going to eat?, what if dogs get adopted or go to foster?, how will we do potty breaks?, how the heck will we sleep?, how will we live stream?  Thankfully, we had dedicated volunteers and our Development Director, Jen Knepper to help keep the event flowing.  We even had some fun treats delivered during the event by volunteers and staff (thank you Brittany Fleming for the poop-cakes and pupsicles, Cara Eplin for the donuts and the others that dropped off delicious snacks)!  Supporters, Sawmill BBQ, Imo’s pizza, Julie Schroeder and Keith Jones made sure our bellies were full at meal times!  Treats Unleashed and Bentley’s ensured the pups were spoiled with treats during the Pawty as well.

“Staying in a shelter kennel for 24 hours had tough moments for me. But empathy is about connecting; it’s about feeling *with* someone. And it makes my heart swell to know how many people felt with us as we lived in the shelter, felt with the dogs who live there and those who still need rescuing, and who donated or otherwise contributed as a result. It means the world to me and to every dog that your empathy will help.” – Taylor Snead

The Slumber Pawty day arrived and I couldn’t have been more excited (again, dream coming true for me!)  Local media was intrigued with our event.  KSDK, FOX2, KLOU 103.3, 106.5 The Arch and Y98 all promoted it and as we started the event, we had raised over $23,000!!!!  What the what!  We had already met our original goal and we hadn’t even started!  Now… to meet their personal goals, some of our paw-tiers agreed to do some questionable things during their live stream segments.  We had folks wearing cones of shame, eating dog treats, wearing full-dog costumes, doing head stands and the list goes on and on.  We rotated kennels for the live stream every 30 minutes during the day.  To see some of these kennel antics, check out our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/gatewaypets.  Things were going so well, we hesitantly raised our goal to $30,000!  EEEEEEEK, could we do it?????

Donations continued rolling in as participants asked for more during their live streams.  They thanked donors, promoted their kennel-mate, sang songs and talked about their work with GPG.  Nighttime arrived but how the heck were we going to sleep with all of this fun Slumber Paw-ting going on.  I, personally stayed up and watched all of the live streams while everyone was awake. It was addicting, and HILARIOUS!  Things started to quiet down around midnight and the live stream was set to Kimmy and Julia’s kennel to watch them snuggle overnight.  At that point, discussions of snoring and other slumber pawty topics ensued internally (is that a dog snoring? Is it Jane? why does the train go by so often?  who has ear plugs?  why does this dog have such bad gas?)

Morning arrived – EARLY and the pups were excited that it wasn’t just a dream and

“Spending 24hrs in the kennel with Dula taught me a lot about the life of a shelter dog. To see how grateful and excited each and every dog was to have our 100% attention for 24hrs was amazing. It just shows the importance of rescuing dogs and getting them into homes so that they can get the attention they deserve! Countdown to the next slumber pawty!” – Amanda Frankenberg

they DID in fact get to snuggle humans all night!  Some folks were a tad crabby and sore from a rough night sleep but all were ready to start the fundraising day!  The live-stream shenanigans continued… more dog treat eating (by humans), visitors came by, playgroups were had and the fun wasn’t stopping!  Some time in the late afternoon, we realized we were so, so close to our new goal of $30,000.  Gosh, raising the last $2000-$3000 could be really hard.  We’ve had so much support already!  Kimmy, who had entertained the Facebook world for much of the Pawty, hopped back on the live stream and started begging for donations.  She was willing to do just about anything for money at that point!  4:50 rolled around we were down to our last few hundred dollars to make $30K.  I couldn’t believe it.  This was happening and we still had an hour of the event!  $100 donations started rolling in and it was done.

24 hours, 14 adult participants, 1 baby participant, 13 canines, 12 kennels, 1 real life room, TONS of laughs, little sleep and $31,275!  
I am still in awe that it happened.  The whole experience has been something I will never, EVER forget.  It was inspiring, fun, life-saving and life-enriching.  This couldn’t have been possible without the participants, the volunteers who helped during the event and the donors.  Your financial support has helped us recoup some of our much needed funds and continue our important and impactful.  To see our list of generous donors, CLICK HERE!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this experience and your contribution to saving lives.
Jamie Case
Executive Director