Every year, Debbie and Bill Capobianco of Bradenton, Florida open their home to hundreds of party-goers, each of whom brings a bag of dog or cat food to be donated to various shelters, rescues and foster families. What started out as a yearly Christmas party has now turned into an annual fundraiser that brings in thousands of pounds of dog food. Here’s Debbie’s story:
We have done this fundraiser for 13 years. It started out once as we were planning our Christmas party that we have every year. I told my husband that even though it is very nice that everyone brings us a present for Christmas when they come, I wanted to do something different, so I told everyone, “don’t bring us anything, but instead bring us either dog food or cat food or animal toys.”
The first year we did this we raised 300 pounds of food, which we thought was great. And thus the tradition began. Each year we had more and more food and more and more people came. On our biggest year we collected 19,000 pounds of food! This past year we collected about 16,000 pounds. Every year it varies, but we are so thankful for everything we get.
We open up our house and supply an open bar, live entertainment, and this year we had a photo booth. My husband and I take care of all of the expenses, but the cover charge to get in is a bag of dog food or cat food and animal toys if they want to bring some. We generally have between 250 to 300 people at our home. Since this fundraiser has gotten so big, I can’t do it without the help of my family and friends. This year we had 24 volunteers helping us with everything from arranging food, cleaning up, collecting animal food as guests come in and selling Chinese auctions and 50/50 raffle tickets.
We have had a Chinese auction for the past four years and the local businesses and many of our friends donate amazing prizes This year some of the prizes were two different weekend getaways on Anna Maria Island, dinner for eight at Bonefish Grill, dinner for two at Anna Maria Oyster Bar and a limo for six hours, gift certificates to many local restaurants and wonderful gift baskets. The community is very generous, as there are many animal lovers out there.
My husband and I are self-employed. I am a real estate agent and my husband has a painting business, and not only do all of our friends come to the party, but many of our clients, too.
My office that I work in, along with another company and various other real estate agents, also collect food for a fundraiser. It really takes a village.
We donate to shelters, rescues and fosters in the area, and even private individuals that take care of feral cats. We also try to send as much as we can down to the 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida. All of the food goes out to whoever needs it in the community.
Besides our family and our jobs, we have a passion for animals, and we try to do whatever we can to help all year round. We currently have two boxers, Rocky and Bella and a 17-year-old cat named Morgan – one of the dogs and the cat are rescues. We did have another rescue boxer named Adrianne, who we lost in June of this year.
Imagine, if everyone would do something like this, how many homeless animals we could feed!