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The grand finale group photo at the Dec. 16 HOPE Telethon at the KPBS studio. The money raised supports programs at Helen Woodward Animal Center. Courtesy photo
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HOPE Telethon raises over $970K for animal center

RANCHO SANTA FE — The KPBS Studio was a hub of KUSI festive activity on Dec. 16 for the Helen Woodward Animal Center’s Annual HOPE Telethon. More than $970,000 was raised in an effort to support orphaned animals as well as the programs championed by the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe. 

According to Public Relations Director Jessica Gerke, the acronym “HOPE” underscores the very essence of the center.

“‘H’ stands for ‘helping pets and animals,’ which is the mission of Helen Woodward that is people helping animals and animals helping people,” Gercke said. “‘O’ is for the over 3,000 orphan dogs and cats that get adopted through our center. ‘P’ is for parents and kids learning to share the earth together through our many education programs and ‘E’ is education since we travel throughout the world with our business of saving lives program and helping other animal welfare organizations learn how to do what we do.”

Gercke described the four-hour HOPE Telethon as having old-school charm with phone banks and the volunteers who answered pledge calls. During the telethon, viewers learned about all the programs that the center offers. While the center is regarded for finding orphaned pets their forever homes, it also provides an array of programs to help make the world a better place for people and pets.

The HOPE Telethon offered a great platform to share information on its other programs. 

Mike Arms, HWAC president & CEO, and KUSI anchor Elizabeth Alvarez at the telethon. Courtesy photo

“We had a three-minute clip on our Pet Encounter Therapy and how we take the unconditional love of animals out to hospitals, assisted living, and convalescence centers,” she said. “Another clip was dedicated to our Therapeutic Horseback Riding, while another covered our Pets Without Walls Program where we help the animals of San Diego’s homeless,” Gercke said.

While a four-hour telethon sounds like a lot of time, Gercke said it flew by quickly with all the activity of learning about the center. Special animal ambassadors like Millie the Goat were there as well pet therapy miniature horses.

Cooper, a rescue dog from Texas, also had some spotlight attention.

“We established a nice relationship with our Texas rescues after Hurricane Harvey — we continue our relationship with those organizations,” Gercke said. “Cooper was a dog who had come to us with heartworms and bullet wounds. At the telethon, we shared his story, and he was there with his new forever mom. We were able to show this happy ending among others.”

Gercke said the telethon is a special day highlighting all the excellent programs, and the impact Helen Woodward has made while raising funds so that the center can continue to do its work.

Gercke noted that the center decided to have a Christmas-themed telethon as opposed to an earlier date typically in late October or early November.

“This year we tried it during the holiday season which was very festive with Christmas trees and lots of puppies wearing Christmas bows,” Gercke said. “The set was absolutely beautiful.”

To learn more about Helen Woodward Animal Center and its programs, visit