This past weekend was full of costumes, paws and tail wagging at the first annual Halloweener Derby Day in Kanapaha Veterans Memorial Park.
The Halloweener Derby Day was a dog race specifically for dachshunds to raise money for the Climb for Cancer Foundation. The dachshund race was followed by a pet costume contest.
Caitlin Powell and her brother Wes brought their dachshunds, Winnie, 4, and Roxy, 10, as participants in the race. Wes and Caitlin’s parents started the Halloweener Derby event a few years ago out of Seaside, Florida.
“This is the first year that we’re actually taking it easy and participating,” Powell said. “Usually I’m working or running around, but this year it’s like we’re in a college town, there’s volunteers, it’s awesome.”
Powell’s dachshunds dressed up as sheet ghosts for the pet costume contest after the race.
“Honestly, the one thing I’m looking forward to is (Winnie) crossing the starting line,” she said. “She’s never crossed the starting line, so that’s the goal.”
A lot of dachshund races have occurred around the country, Powell said.
To prepare for the race, Powell took her dogs on longer walks so she could build up their endurance for running.
Caitlin’s brother Wes said he thinks it’s cool that the Halloweener Derby Day teamed up with the charity Climbing for Cancer.
Once the gate opened for the dachshunds to start racing, many of them sat there and didn’t run. Other dogs tried to find a way to escape instead of running straight to the finish line.
“You never know what the Doxin is going to do,” said Colleen O’Fallon, a sponsor for the event and owner of Sweet Paws Bakery.
Some of O’Fallon’s customers told her that they trained their dogs in preparation for the event.
“It’s such a great event and cause, so it’s like a win-win situation,” O’Fallon said. “Why would you not be involved?”
Climb for Cancer is a two–person foundation that launched in 2003. Since its startup they have raised more than $1.5 million.
“We look for underserved needs where … basically we try to find things that the big foundations in society don’t do,” said Ron Farb, co-founder of Climb for Cancer.
The Climb for Cancer Foundation will donate the proceeds from this event to the University of Florida Health and then allocate the money to the osteosarcoma program, Farb said.
According to KidsHealth, osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer.
“It seems to be a popular event all over the country, but there’s never been anything like this in Gainesville,” he said. “We’re always looking for something different.”
Farb lost his sister and two of his friends to cancer. His two friends died within four days of one another. He said he is very passionate about fighting the disease.
“In my opinion, (cancer) is the modern-day plague,” Farb said.
The Climb for Cancer Foundation focuses on filling in the financial cracks.
“We try to find those underserved needs that don’t get funding,” he said.
Farb said he believes he has a blessed life to be able to help. He found a way to raise money through his hobby of climbing mountains, which is how The Climb for Cancer Foundation started.
Each person who goes on a climbing trip with the foundation has to raise a certain amount of money to be eligible to go on the trip. For example, Farb is taking a group to Africa in March to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Each person has to raise $12,000 to be eligible to go. Of the $12,000, half of the money may be used to pay for the trip, but the rest goes directly to the foundation, Farb said.
He took a young man who had cancer with him during his most recent mountain climb in July. The young man made it to camp 2 at 12,500 feet, which was his summit, he said.
Over the years, Farb has had about eight to 10 people climb with him who were battling cancer.
“In 2008, that was probably the highlight of my life,” Farb said. “I took my sister up, and she became the first person to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro while undergoing chemotherapy.”
The following year, his sister died, so he took her ashes to the summit and spread them.
“She lives up there now,” Farb said.