Wildcat Service Dogs

I recently heard about the most inspiring thing, y'all.

State Farm's Neighborhood Assist Program provides grant money to deserving charities in all 50 states. The Kentucky charity that just received a $25,000 grant from State Farm combines a couple of my very favorite things -- UK, dogs, and helping others. Wildcat Service Dogs is a training organization based at the University of Kentucky which pairs service dog puppies with college students who train the dogs. The charity's description from the  WSD website does a great job of telling their story:
Wildcat Service Dogs (WSD) is a newly formed service dog training organization at the University of Kentucky that is dedicated to training assistance dogs and raising awareness about the laws that protect them.  All of our dogs are owned by WSD, and upon graduation from our program, they will move onto advanced training at an advanced training organization.
All WSD dogs are raised by college students, who are responsible for the socialization, training and housing of a service dog puppy for up to 2 years.  All of our trainers go through a rigorous selection and basic training process prior to receiving their puppy.  All trainers are required to attend weekly training sessions and monthly socialization outings in addition to writing a weekly progress report.
Wildcat Service Dogs was founded in the spring of 2011, when University of Kentucky (UK) student Katie Skarvan received an assistance dog Goldendoodle puppy to train.  While attending classes at UK, several students approached Katie and asked her how to get involved in the puppy raising process.  A few months later, a second student received a dog to train through this program.  The name of this student is Jennifer Hamilton, and the dog that she raised was an Australian Shepherd x Poodle mix.  The organization grew from there, and WSD officially registered with the University of Kentucky in August of that same year.
This is just amazing, y'all. I mean, college students helping dogs who help the community. What an amazingly deserving cause. And what initiative for college kids to undertake this! And they help gorgeous puppies like Chevy

and Jackson

 grow up into caring, responsible dogs that help people who need them.

Thanks so much to Wildcat Service Dogs for the great work they do for the Central Kentucky community and thanks to State Farm for letting us know about the grant. You can donate to WSD here, or learn more on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Who's inspiring y'all lately?

"Fight Like a Girl"

Remember how I'm looking for new Pink Ribbon t-shirts to replace those I'm using to make a quilt?

Well, I just ran across the best one yet!
The Kentucky chapters of the American Cancer Society are selling these adorable pink ribbon, Kentucky Wildcats licensed t-shirts for just $12!

The proceeds of ACS merchandise, fundraisers, and donations go to cancer research, lobbying efforts, and immediate care and assistance for cancer patients.  Contact your local ACS branch (Lexington, Louisville, Ashland, or Owensboro), or email us here at HerKentucky for ordering information. 

Thanks to the dollars raised by Making Strides supporters, the American Cancer Society is saving lives and helping more people facing breast cancer celebrate more birthdays!

Hope Conquers - A Campaign to Help Children With Cancer

I read as an escape, as a form of entertainment and as a way to learn. I've never thought about the idea of "reading for good," but I'm happy to introduce a way to do just that. Tammy Blackwell, a Kentucky author, is with us today for a post on her campaign of kindness - Hope Conquers - which aims to help children and families of children diagnosed with cancer.  - Lydia

I have lived in Marshall County, Kentucky, the majority of my life. When you live in a county of 31,000 people, there is no way to know every single person, but after thirty-something years, you feel like you do. You certainly know every member of your graduating class well enough that you feel a profound sense of sadness when one of them has a child be diagnosed with cancer. And when a person you grew up with is forced to bury their child, your heart becomes a raw ache inside your chest.

I was a member of the Marshall County High School Class of 1996. There were 300 of us. Three hundred. Out of that 300 people, four of them have recently had a child diagnosed with cancer. Two of those children died from the disease.

You would think that was enough for one small town, but unfortunately life wouldn’t agree. There are currently three teenagers in Marshall County missing school as they undergo cancer treatment. Three kids who should be worrying about exams, papers, and unrequited love are now worrying about blood levels, treatment options, and whether they will ever truly get to experience life again.

Cancer is cruel; it’s wrong; and it is certainly not fair.

I recently realized I could just sit around and feel sorry for all the families around me struggling, or I could do something to help. My day job is as the Young Adult Services Coordinator for the Marshall County Public Library. Over the years, I’ve seen how books can change a teen’s perception and attitude. I’ve seen books change lives. And so, armed with that knowledge, I came up with the Hope Conquers campaign.

The Hope Conquers campaign is simple: During the month of October, I will be collecting books inscribed with messages of inspiration and encouragement signed by the author. Those books will be donated to the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, the place most seriously ill kids in Marshall County go to receive care. I’ll also be donating all the profits from the Kindle edition of my novel Destiny Binds
to the Ronald McDonald House, which provides assistance to families with sick children.

I know in the grand scheme of things, Hope Conquers isn’t a lot. I’m going to give some kids some books and donate a little bit of money. So what?

Here’s the thing, though. I think it will make a difference. Actually, I know it will. I know, without a doubt, that every little bit helps. I know that if we work together, if each of us does what we can, our little bits will add up to a big something.

I encourage you to do what you can this month for kids with cancer. If you want to help the Hope Conquers campaign, you can do so by picking up a copy of Destiny Binds in the Kindle Store. (Don’t have a Kindle? No problem! Most app-enabled devices, like computers and smart phones, have a free Kindle app. And Destiny Binds is only 99¢!) Even if you don’t want to buy the book, you can help by
spreading the word about the campaign. Or by making a donation of your own to a charity that supports seriously ill children. Or by dropping a few coins into the collection boxes at McDonald’s. Please, just do something, anything, to get involved. 

Together we can make a difference in the lives of children battling cancer.

Tammy Blackwell works at the Marshall County Public Library in Kentucky and is the author of the popular YA series, the Timber Wolves Trilogy. You can visit her online at www.misstammywrites.com or follow her on Twitter (@Miss_Tammy).

Pink Ribbon T-Shirt Quilt

This is what a square will look like.
I've always wanted to make a t-shirt quilt. For years, I've saved quilts from ball games, sorority dances, and charity events. I've matched them to the perfect fabrics and I've made diagrams of their placement. And then, every time, I stopped.

As y'all well know by now, I come from a quilt family. I can distinguish a nine patch from a Log Cabin or an Ohio Star from a mile away. I've learned the appliqué stitch. I can iron like a boss. The thing is, I just can't cut straight. Turns out, that's a big problem when you're making a quilt.

This October, I'm getting past all that. I'm making a throw-sized quilt to commemorate many years' worth of breast cancer charity runs. This cause hits really close to home for my beau and me, and we've always made an effort to support breast cancer research charities. Needless to say, we have a lot of pink ribbon t-shirts sitting around the house. A quilt is a perfect keepsake to help us remember all the fundraisers we've participated in over the years.

My basic pattern.  I'll keep y'all posted.
My grandmother helped me create a pattern for my quilt. We cut nine t-shirts into 15" squares. Each square will be framed by a 2" wide green and pink border. These squares will be sewn together and framed by a 2" wide contrasting border, then quilted.

Since I've cut up over a decade's worth of fundraising commitment to use as quilt squares, I'll need to participate in a few new races and earn some new shirts. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to raise money for breast cancer research in the Bluegrass State this year!

This part scares me far more than running a 5K!
Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure
Lexington (5K) -- Saturday, October 6, Downtown 9 AM
Ashland (4K) -- Saturday, October 13, Central Park, 9AM
Louisville (5K and 10K) -- Saturday, October 13, Iroquois Park 9AM

American Cancer Society Making Strides Race
Lexington -- Sunday, October 28
Louisville -- Sunday, October 28
Ashland -- Sunday, October 28

Junior League Horse Show

Most good Southern girls have worked what seems like countless volunteer shifts at countless charity events. We've sold cookbooks and raffle tickets. We've led tours of homes and we've decorated for holiday markets. And we've gone to more dinners than we can even remember. They all seem to run together after a while. But nobody can ever claim that Horse Show is anything but unique. The Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show, which takes place this week at the Red Mile Race Track, is unlike any other charity event you'll ever attend. For one thing, it's huge: now in it's seventy-sixth year, it's the world's largest outdoor Saddlebred horse show. It's also a really big deal, serving as the first jewel in the Saddlebred Triple Crown.
I've had the pleasure of volunteering at a few Horse Shows, and I have to say it's one of the most entertaining and unique events I've ever attended. Even if you know nothing about Saddlebreds or show events, it's an amazing spectacle. The delightful historic track and the show's pageantry provide a charmingly anachronistic evening. It's the kind of event where you see four generations of a family turn out to enjoy the show, and I've honestly never seen more Lilly Pulitzer prints under one roof!
Y'all should head out to the Red Mile for the remaining sessions of the Horse Show. I promise you've never seen a charity event like it!

HerKentucky Charity: Woodford Humane Society

I'm a dog person.

(Ok, I'm one of those ridiculous people who's always photographing her dogs, pampering her dogs, having quilts hand-made for her dogs, and generally making a fool of herself whenever dogs are involved. To-may-to, To-mah-to. Whatever.)

Image via here.
Over the holiday weekend, I found myself in a situation where my crazy dog-person heart was just breaking for a sweet and beautiful dog. She was a timid, gorgeous pit bull who'd basically been given to a family acquaintance for breeding purposes. Here she was, a week postpartum, hot and exhausted, and feeding eight puppies. Her old owners didn't want her. She was being given plenty of food and water, and a good bit of attention, but it wasn't like she was home. As I looked into her blue-grey eyes, I wanted to tell her it was okay.  I wanted to tell her that she and her babies wouldn't be subjected to all of the fear and misinformation that arises in relation to her breed.  Mainly, I just wanted to fix things for her.

Now, my beau has had to tell me time and again that I can't rescue all the dogs, no matter how much I'd like to.  We've rescued two high-energy, high-maintenance dogs, and that's really all that we can handle right now.  (But don't think we didn't consider it.)  Since it wouldn't have been feasible for me to personally save this sweet girl, I found myself wishing that she and her babies lived a whole lot closer to Woodford Humane Society.  I have every faith that they could help her find the loving home she deserves.

 Located just outside Lexington, in the Woodford County town of Versailles, the Woodford Humane Society is a non-profit animal adoption center that cares for the animal population of Central Kentucky.  Fueled completely by private donations, Woodford Humane has an open-door policy, which means that they take in all animals, regardless of breed, temperament, health, or age.   "Regardless of breed" doesn't just mean dogs or cats -- the shelter houses rabbits, birds, pigs, and as you'd expect from the Bluegrass State, horses. The WHS commitment to placing animals is truly astonishing. The national average for animal shelter home placement is 25%; since 2007, WHS has found homes for an average of 97% of their animals.

Woodford Humane maintains its commitment to first-rate animal care through year-round fundraisers, including the Limited Editions calendar, the Woodford Wag 5K, and the Freedom Fest. Please consider donating to Woodford Humane, fostering a pet, or adopting a new friend today.  You don't have to be a crazy dog person to make a difference!

Kentucky Oaks: Ladies First!

via Kentucky Oaks.
Everyone who's spent any time in Louisville knows that Oaks Day is the holiday that locals claim as their own.  The Derby may generate millions in tourist revenue and draw international attention for its high-profile guestlist, but the Oaks is the laid-back race for Louisvillians.
via Kentucky Oaks.

Every year, on the day before the Derby, Churchill Downs holds a Grade I race for thoroughbred fillies. In recent years, this race for female horses has become a celebration of female race-goers.  The race has taken on a "pink-out" theme, serving as a fundraiser for various cancer charities, decorating the track in pink, and encouraging the race-goers to wear pink as well.  Even the cocktails are pink; the signature Oaks Lily cocktail takes a pinkish hue from cranberry juice and sour mix.
via Kentucky Oaks.
This year's Oaks drew a near-record crowd of over 112,000 people.  A portion of attendance revenue ($1/ attendee) was donated to cancer charities, as was a portion of all Oaks Lily sales.  This year, Churchill Downs partnered with Stand Up to Cancer and Horses and Hope, an initiative to promote breast cancer awareness, screening, and treatment among Kentucky's horse industry workers and their families. 

With pink decorations and drinks and a field of fillies racing, the Oaks certainly lives up to its motto "Ladies First."  This year, the 138th running, certainly embodied that motto, as Rosie Napravnik became the first female jockey to win the race.

Pretty cocktails, fundraising and a healthy dose of girl power -- that sounds like a very HerKentucky event indeed!