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Laura Serra Headshot

Combining Fashion with Man's Best Friend for a Good Cause

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It was a snowy day in 2005 when a tragic twist of fate changed my life forever. I received a frantic phone call from my best friend that our Chihuahua puppy, Chloe, was in a terrible accident and needed emergency spinal reconstruction surgery. When I arrived at the hospital, the veterinarian gave us the choice between a $10,000 surgery bill and putting our new puppy down. Was it really a choice?

After months of rehabilitation and teaching our puppy to walk again, I can happily say that seven years later, she can jump higher than a cheetah, run faster than a flamingo, and is the cutest darn thing you will ever lay eyes on. But -- I'll never forget the way I felt leaving that hospital room seven years ago and from that day on, I quietly and unknowingly started planning Paws for the Cause.

I always knew I wanted to do something charitable with my free time. As the social reporter for the Globe and Mail I saw, on a weekly basis, how fundraisers made such positive impacts for people and organizations they supported. With those insights I knew that some sort of an event would be a good start.

Next I looked to my friends. I'm lucky that my closest comrades just happen to be some of Toronto's most notable movers and shakers and coincidentally, most work in fashion and media so I knew it had to involve those industries in some form. I started to piece the ideas together: it had to help dogs who needed life-saving surgeries, it had to be some sort of party or event, and I knew it should involve fashion in some way -- voila, a dog fashion show. Now all we needed was a name -- I'll thank my mom for Paws for the Cause, which she came up with on a whim over coffee one morning.

After years of planning and false starts, the first Paws for the Cause #PawsGala was held at Red Bull 381 Projects in October of 2010 and it was a cocktail party and dog fashion show with Toronto A-listers walking their pups. It was a smashing success with tons of media coverage and we raised $30,000 for the OSPCA.

Year two we upped the ante with a bigger space in Airship 37, bigger sponsors and a bigger fashion show in partnership with local designer Philip Sparks. It was also a smashing success and we raised $75,000 for the Ontario Veterinary College's Pet Trust Fund. In addition, we also started a Chloe Award Scholarship at the college for a veterinary student -- a major year indeed.

Now in our third year, we wanted to give our supporters something new to look forward to and upon coming across @ThisWildIdea on Instagram, we were immediately inspired. The entire Paws team was obsessed with Theron Humphrey's Instagram feed and his loveable coonhound, Maddie. Weekly we gushed over the photos on his blog, www.maddieonthings.com, and immediately fell in love with Maddie and their relationship. We took a chance and contacted Theron to see if he would work with us in any way, and to our surprise and delight, he took us up on the offer. We quickly started to see a new course for #PawsGala.

This year, we are proud to announce that the third annual #PawsGala will be the official Canadian exhibit debut for Maddie on Things; Theron will show a selection of his photographs featuring his beloved coonhound and we are most excited to welcome them both at our gala on October 11.

To play on our venue, 99 Sudbury, we've themed the party all things 99 with a fun play on the infamous rap song: 99 Problems But A B*tch Ain't One. Partygoers can expect an evening of art, fashion, music, and most importantly -- a dog show. As a play on our yearly fashion show, this year we're inviting dog owners with the wackiest breeds and haircuts to enter our Facebook casting call, for a chance to walk your dog in our show. We're proud to announce that dog-lover and CP24 personality Melissa Grelo will be the official dog show host -- get ready for a funny night.

Beyond the performance, the $99 ticket will get you gourmet food, open bar, and fun experiences throughout the night. We don't want to spoil the surprise but let's just say: there may be 99 bottles of Peroni beer on the wall and a little something to do with 99 luftballoons. Most importantly, your money goes toward saving the lives of dogs in need and this year, we're doing that via the Central Toronto Veterinary Clinic. Working with their veterinarians, we will subsidize surgeries for qualifying applicants who need help to pay for their dog's surgery.

My dream for what Paws for the Cause could become has finally come true. Help us celebrate on October 11.

For tickets, visit: www.pawsforthecause.ca
Twitter: @Pawsforthecause
Facebook: Paws for the Cause

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