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Florida Voices for Animals' 28th Annual Have a Heart for the Animals!

After a three year hiatus due to the pandemic, Florida Voices for Animals, Inc. (FVA) was once again able to celebrate local heroes and activists. This took place at our 28th Annual Have A Heart for the Animals Award Dinner Fundraiser, at Solid Rock Community School on February 25th, 2023. The event was a great success, raising much needed funds. We shared an afternoon of fun with friends and fellow activists, including bidding on silent auction items, and enjoying really yummy food from Solid Rock Eats! We had a great panel of speakers and gave out some well-deserved awards.

Our award winners included: (More details are available in separate articles on each of the recipients)

Kathryn Barnes, 2022 Animal Hero, for her amazing and brave efforts catching a cat killer, who was arrested after admitting his crime. As a result of her efforts, Kathryn became our first recipient of a $1000 Reward for her brave efforts in his arrest. Suzanne House nominated her, and Kim Gronemeyer presented the award.

Brittany Sievers, Courageous Activist Award, for her daily actions promoting vegan living, reporting animal abuse and helping wildlife. One example of her amazing efforts was contacting the FWC. She asked them to post “Do Not Disturb Gopher Tortoise Habitat” protection signs and got them at Nokomis, Venice and Caspersen beaches! Her many daily efforts to educate the public to reduce animal abuse are admirable. Ellen Jaffe Jones nominated and presented her award.

Vegan Evan, received the Youth Activist of the Year award, for all his continued efforts to speak out for animals, participating in demos and helping at vegan events, including speaking on the Animal Rights Panel at Tampa Bay Veg Fest. Brittany Livingston, whose son Nolan Martinez won this award at the last HAH dinner in 2020, presented the award.

Tom Bird was the final recipient of the night, receiving the FVA Activist of the Year award, for efforts in multiple areas helping animals. He’s always ready to help at any educational tabling, including the FVA table at TBVF, coordinating efforts to feed and sterilize feral cats at Al Lopez Park, and taking over as the quarterly park clean up coordinator. I was honored to present this award to our long-time member and activist.

This year’s program was comprised of a panel of four speakers; two were from Tampa Bay area vegan restaurants, and two from sanctuaries that work hard at rescuing, rehabbing, caring for, and adopting animals in need:

Charles Rumph, Founder & President of Farmacy Vegan Kitchen & Bakery, located at Downtown Tampa, shared some of his story on why and how he came to open such a successful and novel business. Charles is also a realtor.

Thalia Tatham, owner & founder of House of Vegano, who shared her personal story in healing herself from a health challenge with a vegan diet. Her restaurant is in St. Pete and will be relocating to Downtown St. Petersburg in the near future.

Annette Wrubleski, President and founder of Laughing Pig Sanctuary in Bartow, shared her story about this sanctuary, a wonderful place for elderly and unwanted pigs and some other animals in need of life care. We met Annette when she stepped up to save Ziggy the pig for the second time, when he was in peril from being auctioned or euthanized by animal control services last year. Ziggy had been living at The Critter Place (TCP) in Weeki Wachee since 2012, when FVA first rescued him from slaughter on the day he was going to be killed for food. Ted Koran provided him with a home at TCP, when no one else would take him at the tender age of one. When Ted became ill, Annette stepped in to provide Ziggy a home for life.

Kurtis Marsh, President of Suncoast House Rabbit Rescue, spoke about the challenging work rescuing and providing life care for unwanted domestic rabbits. Kurtis and his partner Sunje Schwarz, have been working hard to stop the source of these poor rabbits. They’ve been speaking out in many county commissioners’ meetings to help pass ordinances to ban the retail sale of rabbits. Rabbits are frequently impulse buys for children at Easter. They’re purchased by uninformed people, who then find that they don’t know how to care for them. The rabbits are often injured and sometimes die in these situations, due to improper handling. Those that survive are taken to overcrowded shelters that often can’t take them in, or they’re abandoned in a hostile environment, unable to care for themselves.

A huge thanks to our Panel Moderator Shannon Blair, Activist, Certified Lifestyle Vegan Coach & Educator, who did an incredible job facilitating the speakers and engaging the audience.

We look forward to next year’s event which, as always, promises to be another exciting day. Please plan to join us again next year. - Myriam Parham

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