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Love for motorcycles, animals collide with TJO fundraiser

Aug. 13, 2014 | Peter Spotts

Sneetch, an alumni of Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center, is ready for this year's Ride Like An Animal on August 23.
Reminder Publications submitted photo

SPRINGFIELD – It’s time for motorcycle and sports bike fans to get ready for a Western Massachusetts poker run to benefit animals in need.

Ride Like An Animal starts up for the sixth time Aug. 23 and all of the proceeds raised by the event will be used to help the animals, especially those in need of medical treatments for illness or injury, at the Thomas J. O’Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center.

“It’s the premiere poker run in western Massachusetts that benefits animals. I think there’s a lot of identification with the animals in our shelter and have a lot of compassion for the idea of animals that are vulnerable,” Development Director Melinda Thomas, the event coordinator, said.

“In the last two weeks, we’ve had at least nine animals that have needed serious care from amputation to eye removal to treatment of major skin problems. We’ve helped a couple that have been hit by cars,” she continued.

This is Thomas’ second year as coordinator. The event started back in 2008 and she hopes it will top last year’s ride that raised $15,000.

“We would love to have 300 [riders] again or more. It really depends on the weather. If it rains we’ll obviously have less participants,” she explained. “They ride with their own pets. Many of them are adopted from our shelter [and] in the beginning the event starts at our shelter and we bring out some of our animals.”

“Ninety percent of our riders don’t have pets or the capacity to put them on their bike. Some people have special sidecars [or] a receptacle on the front so the dog can see forward like the rider. Safety is the most important thing. Lot of thought is put into it,” Thomas elaborated. “People go all out for their dogs. We have one dog that always has her heir dyed bright purple or pink. It’s fun.”

Kickstands go up at 10:15 a.m. and the ride will conclude around 12:30 p.m. at Southwick American Legion Post 338 at 46 Powder Mill Road for an after party

The party will feature music from by Rock 201, a barbeque, and raffles. Raffle prizes include, Big E tickets, Red Sox tickets, $100 gift certificates for tattoos, wine, and more. It’s also a great chance to support the event if you don’t want to ride.

“Come to the after party. It starts at 12:30 and goes until 3 p.m. there’s live music, food, participate in a raffle. Party tickets only are $15,” Thomas said.

She hopes the event will grow in the future beyond the local area.

“We would like to be the premiere ride in New England to raise money for needy animals,” she added.

Tickets for Ride Like An Animal are $25 for adult drivers, $20 for adult passengers and $15 for passengers ages 12 to 17.

Pre-registration is available at www.tjofoundation.org or by mail and comes with a free t-shirt.There is registration the day of the event starting at 9 a.m.

For more information about the event, contact Melinda Thomas at 533-4817 or at mthomas@tjofoundation.org. Questions about ride route and weather conditions are handled by Jason Moyer at 679-1196.

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