GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (WCCO) — Normally, thousands of people pack Theodore Wirth Park on the first weekend of May to participate in the Animal Humane Society’s Walk for Animals.

However, in the age of COVID-19 and social distancing, AHS had to get a little creative. So this year, the entire walk was virtual.

It was hard for AHS CEO Janelle Dixon to drive in the parking lot where the event is normally held.

“As I was driving in, it was just weird. You are normally driving in to chaos, or organized chaos with so many people. And it was kind of sad to drive in today,” Dixon said.

So even though thousands of people couldn’t come out and celebrate with Dixon, at least the weather was celebrating with her.

“Of course, we have this amazing beautiful sun! It’s going to be 70 degrees, it would have been the perfect day for 8 thousand people to join together with their pets, and it’s still the perfect day to get outside,” Dixon said.

Minnesotans joined Dixon and the Walk for Animals virtually.

Families like Brad and Debbie Chmielewski supported them from home.

“I was really worried they were going to cancel it altogether, so I was really pleased when they announced it was going to be virtual and they were still encouraging people to get out. Get out with your pets and support the humane society,” said Debbie Chmielewski.

The couple hasn’t missed a walk in 11 years, and weren’t about to let COVID-19 stop them this year.

But fundraising has been a little difficult this year.

“We saw that more people were donating, they were just donating less, and we completely understand. Every dollar helps. So we are so appreciative that people are willing to give their money during this pandemic and these uncertain times,” Chmielewski said.

Dixon added, “This is normally a big day of gift giving for us, when people come literally to the site, make a personal gift, turn in the money they have been collecting from people, and we don’t know what’s going to happen today.”

Fundraising is down heading into the big day, and Dixon hopes by the end, they will meet their goal of $900,000.

People have been so supportive, and we really hope that continues. And we are excited to see how this day turns out,” Dixon said.

If you would like to donate, click on this link.

Katie Steiner

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