AT4P’s founder and president Karen McMeekin said, “We are currently looking for volunteers who can help us out during our last week of the move from our old adoption center location to our current, new location.”
During the week of July 27-31, AT4P must have everything transferred out of its current facility at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy. This process involves finishing kennels and cat rooms at the new center and disassembling and moving equipment from the old center before the animals can be transported.
McMeekin said that she still needs people who can:
dig holes for and construct fencing
fix water lines
transport equipment and supplies
She also said, “We’re still in need of cleaning supplies, bleach. We need sponges that are sort of like rough – the green scrubby pads. … We need some new mop handles, which are for industrial mops where we can change the heads out, … paper towels, toilet paper.
“We need donations of dog food: Diamond Natural chicken and rice dog food. You can buy that at Petsense. You can buy that at Tractor Supply. That’s very important because we have some very large dogs, and we’ve had them for several years. … So we’re going through bags of dog food – 40-pound bags of dog food – very quickly.”
Miranda McNeil started volunteering with AT4P to fulfill eight hours of community service for her Tennessee Promise scholarship. McNeil helps at the adoption center with socializing the dogs and other tasks as needed, and she plans to continue helping the organization long-term.
She said, “Not a lot of people understand the need these places have. I never knew how important volunteers were until I started volunteering.”
McMeekin said, “If [you] are new volunteers who have never been a part of our organization in the past, [you] can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. … We can set up a time. We’re generally here from eight until three everyday. And the big moving days will most likely be Thursday and Friday and probably Saturday.”
Giving some of your time during the week of July 27 to August 1, will help AT4P meet its moving deadline.
“Our grand opening won’t be until September,” said McMeekin, “but, in the meantime, we need all of this completed for the safety and the health of the animals and for the volunteers.”
Additionally, the group needs help daily at its adoption center and its thrift store at 1201 West Ave. If you are interested in long-term volunteering and interaction with the animals, be sure to fill out a volunteer application.
AT4P volunteers took Angel and the other dogs to veterinarians and made sure that these animals continued to heal at the group’s adoption center at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy., during the months that followed their rescue.
Rose T. said, “[My husband and I] found Angel on [the A Time 4 Paws] adoption site; we were drawn to her lovable face that just said take me home!”
Angel now lives with Rose’s family. She said, “This is the first rescue dog we’ve adopted. … Our son loves Angel. He takes her for walks, and we all play with her. My mother-in-law also interacts with her some. She was scared at first by her great size, but soon realized she’s a big baby.”
Angel found her forever family; however, many homeless animals in Cumberland County do not.
From July 2013 to June 2014, the Cumberland County animal shelter in Crossville, Tenn., processed 2,119 cats and dogs through capture or owner surrender. Shelter manager Andrea Gaskins said that 1,414 were released alive through owner reclaims, adoptions or release to rescue organizations, resulting in a 67-percent save rate.
What about the other 33 percent of animals that were killed?
Members of AT4P believe that – in partnership with local groups like theirs – the shelter could support a 99-percent save rate.
Karen McMeekin, AT4P’s founder and president, said, “Our goal is to turn the entire community and county shelter into a No Kill community – people who embrace the No Kill philosophy because it should be the only way that a community should be in the United States today, and, with that philosophy, animals lives are saved.”
Now, in its 10th year in Crossville, AT4P will move its adoption center to a 9½-acre mini sanctuary at 594 Cook Rd., this summer.
McMeekin, AT4P’s founder and president, said, “I started A Time 4 Paws … as an organization that was assisting the local county and city shelter.
“The Humane Society of Cumberland County was running a city shelter. … The city shelter took only city animals, and they were killing approximately 90 percent of them. The county shelter would take all of the county animals, and they were killing about 85 percent of them. And when I became a board member, … I found the number of animals being killed.”
In order to save as many shelter animals as possible, McMeekin and Teresa Williams, AT4P’s vice president transported 30 to 50 dogs every month to No Kill animal rescue groups in other states. Williams, who also manages the AT4P pet hotel said, “We learned soon after by attending Best Friends No Kill conferences and traveling to visit the places that were No Kill that transporting them out [of state] wasn’t the answer – but a temporary solution.”
In an interview with Janet Kinosian for Reader’s Digest magazine, Winograd said, “’When you take killing animals off the table as an option, … you’d be surprised at the creative solutions you come up with.’”
According to this guide, U.S. shelters kill an average of three million animals per year simply because they have not been re-homed. However, statistics show that 23.5 million people bring new pets into their homes every year and that 17 million have not decided where they will find their new companions.
Based on these projections, the No Kill Advocacy Center believes that “even if 80% of those people got their animal from somewhere other than a shelter, we could still zero out the killing. And many communities are proving it.” Saving90.org verified 145 No Kill shelters in the U.S. in 2014. The group also recognized 46 shelters making progress with proven save rates of 80 to 89 percent.
In Lisa Sandberg’sinterview with Winograd published in The Sun magazine (Chapel Hill, N.C.) in 2013, Winograd said, “The No Kill communities across the U.S. today have little in common … , but they all share the model they used to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals. It’s a series of cost-effective programs and services that I call the ‘No Kill Equation.’ These shelters encourage high-volume adoptions. They work with volunteers, foster families, and rescuers. They treat medical and behavior problems. They neuter and release, rather than kill, feral cats. Perhaps the most important characteristic they all share is that they embrace the public rather than blame it. By reaching out to community groups, by treating each life as precious, we can transform any shelter.”
Is No Kill working in Cumberland County?
Shelter director Gaskins is familiar with Winograd’s work and the No Kill philosophy. She said, “It takes time. We’re working our way there slowly. I think [the numbers are] a huge improvement as far as where we’ve been to where we’ve come to.
“The live release on canines is 90 percent, and that’s huge for us. … Cats are our hardest thing. There are so many feral cats in this county.”
To help with decreasing the homeless animal population, the shelter recently changed policy to make sure that all animals are spayed or neutered before they are adopted. She said, “It’s a flat $80 for dogs, $50 for cats.”
Gaskins manages one full-time and three part-time employees. A handful of volunteers help walk and socialize the animals, and some take animals home that need to be in quarantine and treated. However, the shelter still needs help with animal socialization, daily cleaning and publicizing new arrivals on social media.
Gaskins said that she presented plans for a new facility to the city council this summer. She said, “A new facility opens eyes to the public, is more inviting to the public; it encourages adoptions.”
Although the city commissioners told her that funding would not be available for this year, they encouraged her to present the proposal again next year.
For the short-term, she said, “Feral cats is the biggest [project] we’re working on … . We’ve done things a little bit different on how we separate them this year. … We’ve had less problems with respiratory diseases passing through the cats. We would like to see a feral cat enclosure outdoors. Inside, I think, is really stressful for them. That’s one. Working on that and the barn cat program. We’ve done a lot of focus on the dogs. We need to focus a little bit more on the cats this year and try and get that number down and get the release rate up.”
Gaskins explained that the shelter does not set a time limit on how long an animal can stay at the shelter; however, the facility does euthanize animals when it is full.
She said, “If [the dog or cat] has great potential but just has not found the right home, we’ll hang on to it for as long as we can – as long as we have the space and keep the transports going [to out-of-state rescue groups] and there’s potential for that animal to get a good home.”
McMeekin said that she is pleased that the number of shelter killings has been lowered over the past ten years. “But it’s not a 99-percent save rate,” she said.
A Time 4 Paws also wants to encourage more adoptions locally in order to prevent transported animals from taking the place of other homeless animals in northern states.
Is No Kill working in Tennessee?
Steve Phipps founded the Blount County Humane Society (BCHS) in Maryville, Tenn. in 2003, and continues to serve as the group’s president. He said, “[The book] opened my eyes. … There aren’t too many pets for the homes that we have in America. As a matter of fact, we have a surplus of homes, and the breakdown is we don’t have a pet overpopulation. We have shelter overcrowding due to poor shelter performance.”
Four years ago, the BCHS leadership team, inspired by Winograd’s No Kill Equation, approached Maryville city officials with a plan to drastically lower the kill rate of shelter animals and change the city to a No Kill community. Phipps said, “Of course, [the animal control officers] were very skeptical. … They didn’t know anything about No Kill. They thought it was some crazy, lame-brained idea, and they thought we’d give up after a few months.
“I think the turning point for them was [that] there were five black dogs that came to the shelter. Traditionally, very hard to adopt. … Well, lo and behold, we got the five dogs adopted, and I think they saw at that point, we’re really doing something that works. Since then they’ve been on board. They expanded their hold periods – without us even asking them – expanded from three days to 20 days.”
The group also manages a thrift store at 1201 West Ave. Volunteers work Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Another branch of AT4P’s ventures is the pet hotel at 2149 E. First St.Teresa Williams helped open the hotel in 2009, and said, “Profits go to help AT4P and its programs.”
Williams is especially qualified to manage the hotel with her background in dog training and with a degree in business. She has shown agility dogs and horses throughout the U.S. and Europe for many years and is certified in canine and equine massage therapy. She also maintains a dog training business called Winning Touch.
Williams said, “We built three cottages with no more than eight to nine dogs per cottage. Smaller dogs were setup in the house. Lots of playtime makes for the tranquil atmosphere. We don’t get the barking that goes on in most kennels. We also board cats.”
What is in the future for A Time 4 Paws?
McMeekin has been planning to build an animal sanctuary for Cumberland County since she started the organization.
“People don’t realize that, when they say their son or daughter is going to take care of [their pet] when they’re gone, the situation they may be in at that time does not award them the ability to take that animal,” said McMeekin. “And so what do they have? They don’t have a choice. Well, they do have a choice with us, but they don’t have a choice at the county shelter. It could be killed, and, if it’s a cat, it’s probably going to be killed for sure. So what we’d like to be is the alternative.”
The AT4P adoption center would be located on the property; however, the sanctuary would mainly be a special home for animals with special needs. To help alleviate the number of animals killed in the county shelter, the group would have special treatment areas for sick animals and space for elderly dogs and cats and for those who need more socializing before being listed as adoptable.
As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, A Time 4 Paws depends on community support for financial help and for supplies. Those interested in donating will find more information on the Pinterest board below.
Founder and president Karen McMeekin said, “The grand opening will be in late July. We will transfer the animals over to the facility sooner, but, … the end of July is the projected date for the opening for the public to come and experience the new adoption center.”
AT4P’s new center will have 16 heated and air-conditioned indoor/outdoor kennels for dogs. Cats will also live in temperature-controlled rooms with climbing ramps and the ability to move outside into a protected space.
McMeekin said that the AT4P team needs volunteers with a variety of skills to help with the transition to the new location.
To continue work on the Cook Road property, AT4P needs volunteers to donate supplies and gift cards, clean, paint, landscape, do regular lawn care, build fences and pressure wash.
McMeekin said, “We’ll need people who know how to work with chain link fencing, wood fencing, basic carpentry skills – just to donate their time – and we can put them to work.”
“With the nine and a half acres,” said McMeekin, “there is a pond where we have been excavating and cleaning … to create walking trails. The walking trails will be available for our volunteers to walk the dogs that we have in our programs.
“Our goal,” said McMeekin, “is to turn the entire community and county shelter into a no kill community. … With that philosophy, animals lives are saved. Animals are treated humanely. Laws are followed. Laws are improved.
“A Time 4 Paws wants to educate people – educate them on how to become a no kill community, how to take care of animals, how to be kind to them, have them be a part of their family, spay and neuter them, teach the children responsibility about animals, treating them humanely as God’s creatures – not just as discarded, unwanted animals.”
In addition to help with the new adoption center, AT4P needs volunteers with many day-to-day and special activities.
McMeekin said, “We need volunteers for our events. We transport animals to and from adoption events. We have people we need to socialize the animals.
“We have cleaning … opportunities. We have the thrift store which we need people to process items – and very desperately. We need people who can pressure wash on a daily basis. We need people who can mop floors, clean. We just always need an extra hand.
“We need an events coordinator. I need a marketing person, and I also need a grant writer. And all of these are volunteer positions at this point.”
To learn more information about AT4P and the no kill philosophy, the public is invited to a volunteer orientation meeting that McMeeking hosts at the Art Circle Public Library on the second Saturday of every month. The next meeting will be June 13, at 10 a.m.
To volunteer your time and skills, call 931-456-6906.
Donated items for the thrift store and/or the adoption center can be left at both locations. The A Time 4 Paws Thrift Store is located at 1201 West Ave., and the current adoption center is at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy.
The public can also donate pet food and supplies to AT4P’s AniMeals program at the Crossville locations of Kroger and Food City.
Monetary and gift card donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 2982, Crossville, TN 38557.
Volunteers man the AT4P thrift store, located at 1201 West Ave., Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. One hundred percent of its profit helps the organization maintain the animals and operational expenses of the no kill animal adoption center, located at 463 Old Jamestown Hwy.
Karen Arnold has volunteered with AT4P for four years and at the thrift store since it opened in September 2013. She said, “Everyday we have different specials. Then we’ll throw an extra one in. … We want the customers to feel special. We want them to come back, and we want them to … have an idea of what we do [at A Time 4 Paws].”
Pearl Jaco, who also works at the thrift store, said, “People will give money, supplies. They donate everything we get in the store. People are really good about that. Some days we get big donations. … Other days we might only get two or three, but, in general, we have donations everyday of some type.”
At the entrance to the store, customers will find an information table with a photo album of adoptable pets, a wish list for donated supplies and other information about AT4P’s mission. AT4P volunteers also help rescue homeless and abused animals and create educational programs and literature about the no kill philosophy, which all require funding.
Arnold said, “I’m just really inspired by the things going on, and I want other people to see what we do and what we have done and what we’re going for the future with.”
In the meantime, the organization uses the thrift store to help with veterinary bills and to fund the various programs it has in place to help people and their pets in the community and homeless and abused animals.
By shopping at the AT4P thrift store, consumers find inexpensive household, décor, clothing and pet supplies, as well as toys, books and holiday items. At the same time, they will be supporting AT4P’s efforts to save, find homes for and create a sanctuary for homeless pets in Cumberland County.
Steve Phipps, the founder and president of the Blount County Humane Society (BCHS), said, “We’ve always been above 90 percent, which is the benchmark for saying that you’re ‘no kill.’ … Ninety percent is just a goal. There’s no reason why you can’t do 96, 97, 98, 99 and even 100 percent. And so we take that seriously. Every dog and cat is an individual.”
Eddie King, the director of the Maryville animal shelter, said, “When I first started doing this  years ago … we [were] doing 3,500 to 4,000 a year, coming into the shelter. I’d say … maybe 95 or 90 [percent] of that was being put to sleep. Now if you can imagine that’s what we did everyday here first thing in the mornings. Now fast forward to 2015, we’re not doing anything, and it’s thanks to the Blount County Humane Society.”
Phipps said, “Maryville, Tenn., is the safest community for shelter pets in America today – right now. For 2014, we have a 100 percent save rate.”
BCHS collaborates with the Maryville animal shelter to ensure that all of the animals that enter the shelter are released alive. The Shelter Pet Project team takes photos of any new animals received by the shelter to put on the BCHS Facebook page.
King said, “It’s been a 100 percent blessing because, [for] everything that comes in here, Steve’s group comes in here, takes pictures, information, and it goes automatically that day onto Facebook. And I can’t tell you how many times we found the owner [or] we’ve got an adoption because it’s on Facebook.”
He said, “Changed my whole perspective. Changed my life as it has many people’s as far as their role in animal protection.
“It opened my eyes, and I was like, ‘Well, there aren’t too many pets for the homes that we have in America. As a matter of fact, we have a surplus of homes, and the breakdown is we don’t have a pet overpopulation.’ We have shelter overcrowding due to poor shelter performance. …”
Phipps also started the national No Kill Revolution organization in 2009, to promote the principles and strategies of Winograd’s no kill model of shelter management.
He said, “The moral of the story is pretty much any dog can be rehabilitated to go into a family if you choose the family correctly and with much care. We believe in the no kill movement that pretty much any dog can be rehabilitated, and, if they can’t be, we still have a moral obligation not to kill that dog. And that’s where sanctuary comes in. That’s why it’s so important for us to have a sanctuary for dogs.”
Since the BCHS started working directly with Maryville Animal Control, Police Chief Tony Crisp has initiated several changes on his own.
King said, “Back in the day, it was three days if a stray animal came in, five days if it had a tag on it – or if we knew who it was, we’d hold it five days. Chief stepped up and says, ‘We’re going to do a 20-day hold for all animals. Period.’
“It’s been great. And, again, this really couldn’t take place without the help of Steve Phipps and his group. Because after that 20 days is up, they step in, and they find a home.”
Phipps said, “When we first started, we were working with the domestic dogs and cats. Our secret ambition was to save the feral cats because that’s part of the no kill model. … And so [the chief] approached us again. We had it in the plans to approach them, but they beat us to the punch. They said, ‘We’ll let you have the feral cats under one condition. You cannot release them back into the city limits.’
“And so we started a barn cat program, which we studied, and learned that it was the next best step.”
In the barn cat program, BCHS finds farmers who want to control rodents in an Eco-friendly way. The humane society has the feral cats spayed or neutered. They place the cats in barns in the surrounding areas of the city in kennels for two weeks to acclimate them to their surroundings.
Phipps said, “We’ve had a really good rate of feral cats staying there. We’ve maybe had five that owners say just took off to parts unknown and never saw them again. But they’re feral cats. They know how to survive, and now they can’t reproduce. So we feel like that’s the model that works for us here.”
Phipps and King believe that the Maryville program is one that can be adopted anywhere in Tennessee.
“Go out there an talk with your shelter,” said Phipps, “and, if they’ll work with you, work with them with the ultimate goal – and this can happen overnight – it’s not a five-year program though I see a lot of communities say, ‘Well, seven years down the road we’re going to be ‘no kill.’
“That’s a cop out. You can achieve no kill in one year or less if you’re serious. And the reason I say that is because it’s been done over and over. There are over 250 communities in America now that have no kill shelters.
Phipps said, “In Cumberland County, it can happen. We’re proof that it can happen, so take heart. Get out there and do the things that it takes.”
Karen McMeekin, president of AT4P, said that in 2004, the county and city shelters were killing 85 to 90 percent of the dogs and cats they brought in. In order to reduce these numbers, she often transported large numbers of animals to out-of-state no-kill rescue organizations.
Winograd’s text gave McMeekin hope for a new plan for Cumberland County, and, at her own expense, she visited successful no-kill programs in Utah, Texas and Florida to learn how to implement the same initiative in Tennessee.
Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) in Kanab, Utah, has been a prominent model for no-kill animal programs since 1984. Founders committed themselves to sheltering homeless animals until they were adopted and educating the public about the routine and unnecessary euthanasia protocols in U.S. shelters.
Board member Gregory Castle has served as BFAS’s CEO since 2010. However, as a co-founder of BFAS, he has been advocating for no kill animal programs for 30 years. He believes that communities can eliminate unnecessary euthanasia of homeless animals with organized programs. Through No More Homeless Pets in Utah, another organization he founded, his team developed programs for animal care education, low-cost spaying and neutering and pet adoptions.
Since 1988, the Animal Refuge Center (ARC) in Ft. Myers, Fla., has provided an alternative to euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats. They ensure that all animals are treated, rehabilitated and given an opportunity to be adopted. For dogs and cats that are never adopted, ARC is committed to providing them with lifetime sanctuary.
For board members and other volunteers with AT4P, the goal for a true no-kill animal facility with the Cumberland County government is very realistic. However, they know that they must continue educating the community about the statistics and the proven successes of other programs to counteract the long-standing mindset of pet overpopulation that must be controlled with euthanasia.
Steve Rosenstein, who manages public relations for the CMRC said, “This display started about seven or eight years ago. The club started really in people’s basements, as is a typical railway club. They would get together, and the club decided they wanted to something permanent and started looking for a space.”
“And, actually, the building is still going on,” said Rosenstein. “There are some sections of this layout that have been built within this last year because once you run out of space you run out of things to do so you’re always building and building.”
Kendall, 6, and Will, 10, came from Nashville to visit their grandparents in Crossville. This was their first time to see the display. Kendall said, “I like how they have the buttons and stuff, and I like how they have [Thomas the Train] with the candy in it.”
Will said, “I like where you can search for things.” By using a scavenger hunt list located at the front desk, visitors are encouraged to look for items hidden within the railroad scenes created by club members.
“Most of our layouts,” said Rosenstein, “are built with a lot of interactivity for children. … They can press buttons and run trains. They can create sounds.”
The CMRC is uncommon as a model railroad club because its membership includes people who work with various model scales. Rosenstein said, “Most clubs you go to you’re going to see maybe an HO-scale, which is the most popular scale. Maybe an N-scale club. This club has all popular scales in it.”
“I’m a G-scaler,” he said. “I was an HO person until I moved down here [from New York]. I bought a house that had a garden railroad in the backyard, and now I’m a G-scaler.”
This 12-year-old organization has increased its visibility with different methods of promoting the model railroad exhibit. Rosenstein said, “We now have signs on I-40, … so now people can find us more easily. We’re on Facebook. We have a website. We’re on TripAdvisor. … So we get a lot of people here, and a lot of people review us very favorably online. They take photos, and they post their photos. They take videos and put them on YouTube. People are really blown away when they see this display.”
Rosenstein said, “We very carefully track our visitors. Everyone who comes in the door gets counted. We have a guest book where people can sign in. We get upwards of 30,000 people a year, and they come here from all over the world. We look at our guest book. There are people from Australia, from Europe, from South America – people from all over the United States.”
The UCRS hosts model railroading classes throughout the year and has listed upcoming classes on its website for Feb. 2, March 21 and April 11, at 8 a.m. Interested persons must register via contacts on the UCRS webpage.
Rosenstein said, “So you have all of these various skills involved in model railroading which are very valuable to a child. A child has to learn about electricity if they’re going build a model railroad layout. They have to learn how to paint things. They have to learn how to build things. It’s not sitting at a computer starring at a screen, punching buttons to play a video game. We wish more people would get their children involved in model railroading.”
Volunteers work six days a week at the mall to make sure this display is open for visitors. Because the UCRS and CMRC do not charge admission, members are dependent on membership dues and donations to maintain the exhibits.
CMRC member Wayne Lokey said, “This is our big toy box. We come in and play.” However, he explained that repairing equipment and scenery is expensive. Trains that run constantly while the exhibit is open to the public get very hot. He said that new O-scale engines could cost up to $1,000.
For more information about membership or to make a donation, contact Steve Rosenstein at 931-742-0151 (after 6 p.m. CST) or at email@example.com.
Stockton said, “It’s definitely been a cool experience. You get to do something a lot of people can’t say they do. I mean it’s really an experience kind of like a big secret. You go into a room and come out as a whole new person.”
He also said that the student body has been very supportive of his role at sporting events. He laughed, “Before games people say, ‘Are you going to hop in the suit yet?’ I’m like, ‘Soon. I’ve got another three hours.’ They want me in in early so I can just go crazy.”
“U.S. News and World Report” identified CHS as a bronze-level high school in its annual Best High Schools list. The administration and faculty work diligently to increase academic rigor and encourage students to apply for universities. However, career options are not always obvious in this rural town.
Stockton, however, has been researching his future opportunities for some time as a mascot and as a former member of the JROTC program. He said, “I’m planning to major in political science, and then, from there I plan to go to OCS, which is officer training school, and do military law for the Air Force.”
Stockton participated in JROTC for three years and served as a commanding officer with the rank of Cadet Major during his junior year.
During the summer before his senior year, he made a difficult decision to not continue with JROTC.
Stockton said, “I arrived at that decision because I had my normal classes, and I had dual-enrollment classes, so I was taking college classes. And then on top of that we had the busy ballgame schedule, and then everything with JROTC junior year. It was too much to handle. I was exhausted. This year I just decided to take off. … And there’s some mascot scholarships out there which you can try out and make it. You can pretty much go anywhere from there. That’s what I’m hoping to do in college.”
Scouts from TTU and from Bryan College have attended CHS games to watch Stockton in action.
In spite of Stockton’s ambitions to be a college mascot, he said that his job now is to support the cheerleaders and entertain the crowds. He takes pride in making people happy.
Stockton shared one of his favorite memories: “There was one ballgame we had at Jackson County. This little girl was crying all night because she saw me walking by. … And her mom was like, “Don’t be afraid,” so she brought the little girl [where I was standing], and she was hiding behind her mom’s legs. … I just sit down Indian style I just [do a hand gesture to come], and she comes over. And I high five her, and she high fives me back. Well, we start playing paddy cake right there while the ballgame is going on – completely missed the fourth period of the girls game. I’m just playing paddy cake with this girl, and she’s laughing and giggling and she’s starting to warm up. … I was really just focusing on getting that girl to calm her down – get her used to mascots.”
Stockton started a Facebook page for Brutus the Buffalo. He said, “It was originally just meant to inform people. Let them know the next game, the time, when to be there – also for pep club members.
“In two days, we went from having no friends to over 100, and then we had our [Fentress] county executive Mike Cross add us, so that was pretty cool to have him add us. Then I posted on there, ‘I hope to see you at our next game Mr. County Executive Mike Cross,’ and he liked it and commented, so that was pretty cool.”
Stockton’s mascot Facebook page now has 321 likes.
Mandy Dearman, assistant to the producing director and the volunteer coordinator at CCP, contacted Nicole Simmons, Hyder’s mother, about organizing this benefit. Simmons said, “We went to high school together, and she called me up one day. Rylan has a Facebook page, … and everybody has seen it on there and wanted to do something for him.”
“Everyone’s been very nice,” Simmons said, “and we’re very accepting of that. We appreciate it!”
Bryce McDonald is the associate producing director and public relations coordinator at CCP. While introducing the production, he said, “Being here tonight is such a beautiful show of community love, and it’s all for that little boy, so thank you all so much for that. We at the playhouse would like to thank our very own Mandy Dearman for bringing this to us. … We’d also like to thank Tams-Witmark. That’s a licensing house that owns ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and they allowed us to do this performance and to have a voucher system, so you could purchase a voucher to see the show. …”
CCP donated all of its ticket and concession sales from the evening to the Hyder family to help with their travel expenses to Columbus, Ohio, where Hyder will be evaluated for a clinical trial at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Many in the audience wore “Saving Rylan” shirts to show their support for the family. The back of the shirts read “’I can do all things through Christ.’ –Philippians 4:13” and “Finding a cure for Sanfilippo syndrome.”
On January 31, CCP shared a photo on Facebook of the Hyder family with “The Wizard of Oz” cast. The post stated that the event raised $6,000.
Doctors diagnosed Hyder with Mucopolysaccharidoses or MPS III-A – also known as Sanfilippo syndrome – on November 21. His body cannot produce the enzymes necessary to reprocess materials in cells and causes the cells to store biological materials that the body should be able to remove naturally. This build-up in the cells may lead to the degeneration of not only the heart, joints and bones, but also the respiratory and central nervous systems. Hyder is specifically missing the heparan N-sulfatase enzyme.
Simmons said, “[Prior to the diagnosis, Rylan] had been having some gastro issues, which is what I thought it was because his belly would get distended. Blood work showed increased liver enzymes, enlarged spleen and liver, so that’s why they continued with more testing because they had thought it might be a genetic disorder. …”
Simmons and her husband Jonathan Hyder will take Hyder to Nationwide Children’s Hospital this month for evaluations to prepare for a clinical trial.
Simmons said, “The clinical trial hasn’t made it through the last FCA approval, so, as of right now, there’s no set date when the clinical trial will start. … They’re hopefully proposing sometime this summer.”
“They have to get the medicine just so-so for humans,” said Simmons. “So, hopefully, there are no set backs. It’s a virus they will inject into the spinal column. What that virus is supposed to do is to give them the enzyme that they are missing to stop the accumulation of heparan sulfate on the brain. If everything goes OK, it should be like a one-time treatment type deal. That’s the whole plan.”
Since Hyder’s diagnosis, Simmons has researched the Sanfilippo syndrome and made connections with several support groups. She said, “The National MPS Society is a good support group. Our private Facebook page [for MPS] is a very good support group because the people who are on that Facebook page only have children with this disorder. … Nobody else can see what’s written on it. … That helps a lot.”
The Hyders have three sons: Gage, 7; Brayden, 6; and Rylan, 4. Simmons said, “[His brothers] are good with him. They’re still young. They don’t totally get it. We answer questions as questions come about. It’s kind of hard explaining that to a six-year-old and a seven-year-old, so we just take it as it comes.”