Marsh appeared calm and at ease as he strolled through Willow Glen Park on Saturday.
The statuesque horse, white with brown spots, bobbed its head as it was led through the crowd by a rope. He stopped to welcome the caresses of passers-by.
The fact that he was able to be there is a bit miraculous. But it also explains exactly why the Hops for Hooves event is so important.
The annual fundraiser benefits Gray Muzzle Manor, a sanctuary for elderly and infirm animals that also offers several community outreach programs focused on discovering the positive effects of animal interaction on people’s health.
Much of the money raised from last year’s profits went to Marsh. It helped pay to remove a cancerous eyelid and provide him with three rounds of chemotherapy.
The effort paid off. Marsh is doing well today, healthy and happy.
And Marcy Tocker, founder and executive director of Gray Muzzle Manor, hoped this year’s event would bring the same kind of support to other animals in need like Marsh.
The fundraiser featured beer and wine from more than 25 different Pennsylvania companies. There were also food trucks, vendors and musical entertainment in addition to animal appearances from Gray Muzzle Manor.
“We’ve been doing this fundraiser for five years now and it just keeps growing,” Tocker said.
And as community support continues to grow, so does the sanctuary.
Tocker, who is a mental health professional, said the organization was able to expand its services when it moved two years ago from a 4-acre farm near Fleetwood to a more spacious 45-acre estate. in Mohrsville.
“It’s so exciting to see all these people come out and support what we’re doing,” she said.
Gray Muzzle Manor is an organization near and dear to Dave and Bree Kantner. The Temple couple, who came to indulge in craft beers for a good cause, said they were strong supporters of the programs and services offered by the nonprofit organization.
“They’re caring for our senior animals when no one else will,” Bree Kantner said. “They let these animals live out the rest of their lives in comfort and peace. They also focus on providing mental health services, which I think is very important.
As the owner of a pet grooming business, Bree Kantner said she has known the organization since she arrived on the scene and would not miss an opportunity to support their efforts.
Her husband said he loves the idea of spending an afternoon sampling the latest concoctions from local craft breweries knowing his money will go to a group as passionate about animals as he is.
Jason Sweitzer also liked this idea. He had found the Hops for Hooves event on Facebook but was unfamiliar with Gray Muzzle Manor, so he did some research into what the organization does. And that’s what sealed the deal for him.
Sweitzer said he was happy to support the cause while celebrating his 42nd birthday with friends.
“It’s a win-win situation,” the Fleetwood resident said.
Fred and Lisa Lego also found the event via Facebook. The Cambria County couple were looking for something to do while visiting their son and grandchildren in Reading when it came to light.
“I didn’t know anything about it, but it seemed like a good time,” Lisa told Lego. “It’s a great event for the community and now that I know more about what this organization does, I think we could support it.”
All proceeds from Saturday’s event will help fund:
• Pet rescue and hospice. This program provides senior and special needs pets with a safe space to live their best life, no matter how short.
• Animal-assisted therapy. Tocker practices psychotherapy using animals to help those struggling with trauma, impulse control, anxiety, depression, stress and more.
• Community awareness. A program that helps families when possible keep senior pets out of the shelter system by helping with veterinary care, training, food and other pet supplies.
• SAFER, which provides long-term foster care on a case-by-case basis for people seeking protection from domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health treatment.
• Stable moments. This mentoring program uses horse-assisted learning for children in the foster care system to help them develop a variety of life skills.
• A new dawn. A riding program that helps treat patients with neurological or other conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, head trauma, stroke, spinal cord injury spinal disorders, behavioral disorders and psychiatric disorders.