Paws for the Cause plays key role in this weekend’s AIDS walk - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Arts & Life

Paws for the Cause plays key role in this weekend’s AIDS walk

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Posted: Friday, September 30, 2011 11:00 am

Two years ago, Chloe was just another dog rescued from a Phoenix street.

Chloe looked "like she should have been on a milk carton," owner Mike Oleskow said about the photo that was circulated when she was found at about 6 months old.

But, nowadays, Chloe has a different photo floating around Phoenix, as she and Oleskow promote Sunday's annual AIDS Walk Phoenix and 5K Run.

Chloe, an American bulldog-American Straffordshire terrier mix, was this year's "poster pooch" for Paws for the Cause, which is the walk's voice in the canine community.

Chloe earned the poster gig because she was Paws' top earner for the walk last year, Oleskow said. The Phoenix dog-owner got his own share of Paws responsibilities this summer when he was asked to step in as the replacement chairman.

Kit Kloeckl, executive director of Aunt Rita's Foundation, which hosts the walk, said Paws pulled in more than 500 dogs last year and raised almost $18,000. All together, Aunt Rita's raised more than $350,000 from the walk and equally distributed $209,000 of it among the foundation's 19 member agencies.

The agencies' portion meant "every person that came to the walk - that registered or got people to support them - we can say that 92 cents of their dollar went back to those agencies," Kloeckl said. Each of the member agencies works to prevent HIV/AIDS, or assist those who live with it.

Oleskow said he hopes to double Paws' fundraising this year. That was the canine group's typical increase ever since Aunt Rita's relaunched the walk in 2008.

The walk's original host was AIDS Project Arizona, which organized the event from 1987 until the agency closed in 2003.

Oleskow said fundraising has a different feel when the dog is the one "asking."

"A lot of people tend to want to have their dog be the money-maker, instead of themselves," Oleskow said. "You don't feel (you're) putting yourself out there asking people for money."

Jackie Brenda said Paws' emphasis on dogs' involvement for a cause like HIV/AIDS was "the perfect combination" for her two businesses to support. The owner of Smelly Dog and Green Bone Bakery donated a gift from each business to Paws' prizes for the walk's three top-earning pooches.

Brenda also said she will be at the walk Sunday to hand out her bakery's frozen yogurt dog treats.

Oleskow said Paws will further accommodate its four-legged friends with water stations, kiddie pools, two mobile veterinary stations, and three optional Waggin' Trails to shorten the route to various distances.

For more information about the walk and Paws, visit www.aidswalkphoenix.org.

Paws also has a Facebook group called "PAWS for the Cause Phoenix."

Kiali Wong is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.

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