Hand in Paw raises $200,000 at Picasso Pets Gala for animal-assisted therapy programs

Since it was founded in 1996 by Beth Franklin, the nonprofit Hand in Paw has been on a mission to improve human health and well-being through animal-assisted therapy.

Hand in Paw serves medical centers, schools and human service organizations in North Central Alabama and Tuscaloosa.

To support that mission, Hand in Paw hosted its 20th annual Picasso Pets Gala fundraiser at The Grand Bohemian Hotel at Lane Parke in Mountain Brook Village on Aug. 14.

The event raised more than $200,000 for the cause, according to an Aug. 20 news release from the organization.

Hand in Paw celebrated both the organization’s 25th anniversary and the 20th anniversary of Picasso Pets.

They were happy to present the in-person event after what Executive Director Margaret Stinnett called “an unforgettable year, with COVID seriously trying to spoil” the event.

“But we made it happen,” Stinnett said.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, Hand in Paw limited the seating capacity at the event and encouraged attendees to wear masks.

Picasso Pets is the organization’s largest single source of revenue and allows it to deliver both in-person and virtual animal-assisted therapy services free of charge.

Their belief that people in need deserve the hope, healing and unconditional love only therapy animals and their handlers can provide,” Stinnett said.

The gala included cocktails, games, a live auction with many unique items and live music from the All In One band.

Attendees had the opportunity to meet Hand in Paw therapy teams and hear testimonials about the value of their services.

Guests saw the completed Picasso Pets paintings were made by pets belonging to prominent community members with help from well-known local artists.

This year’s artists included Lila Graves, Liz Lane, John Lytle Wilson, Sarah Mason and Thomas Andrew.

The inspiration for the 2021 Face of Picasso Pets, Bristol Fulton, was in attendance with her family.

“Diamonds are Furever” was the artistic theme for the night, and guests were encouraged to wear sparkly jewelry and masks with their glamorous Hollywood attire.

The Face of Picasso Pets was designed by local artist, Becky Denny, who drew inspiration from Holly Golightly in the film, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

The gala’s emcee was Guin Robinson, Ken Jackson was the auctioneer and Tito’s Handmade Vodka was the title sponsor.

Hand in Paw is Alabama’s premier animal-assisted therapy provider and animal advocacy organization. Their professionally-trained volunteer handler and animal Therapy Teams help improve people’s day to day lives in several medical centers, schools, and human service organizations throughout North Central Alabama and Tuscaloosa.

Their volunteer teams make thousands of beneficial visits through community events and participating facilities each year, helping countless children with special needs, at-risk youth, struggling students, and people with chronic and terminal illnesses.

The demand for animal therapy is growing, according to the nonprofit.

To respond, Hand in Paw, using a $2 million capital campaign, completed a major renovation and expansion of its headquarters in early 2019.

The facility was renamed the Beth Franklin Building.

A sleek, modern facility, it includes a hospital simulation room donated by Children’s of Alabama, as well as a large training room for the volunteer handlers and dogs in the therapy teams.

“We needed a place to do it on site and add more teams quickly and give them more training opportunities,” Franklin told our sister publication Iron City Ink at the ribbon cutting in February 2019.

For more information, go to handinpaw.org.