VALPARAISO | “A lot of mud and a lot of hills.”
That’s how runner Matthew Williams described the 5K course of the third annual Black Cat Strut on Sunday morning at Sunset Hill Farm County Park.
Despite the soggy trails, participation in this year’s event more than doubled from last year, with more than 500 runners and walkers, said Holly Grunwell, who organized the race for the Independent Cat Society.
Grunwell heads up Supporting Northwest Indiana Animal Shelters/Rescues, a group that raises funds throughout the year for local animal organizations.
“You guys made this event awesome,” Grunwell said as she handed out running awards. “Every year, it gets bigger, and this year, it got a lot bigger.”
Grunwell said $13,000 was raised this year for the cat shelter, compared with $7,400 last year.
The event also featured adoptable dogs and cats from area shelters and rescues, along with raffles, an appearance by Rusty the RailCat, refreshments, kids’ games, and games for dogs, including a howl contest.
Although all participants received an official race T-shirt, Williams created his own with the words “Runnin’ for the Pussycats” on the front, and “Meow Mode” on the back.
“I love cats,” said Williams, of Crown Point. “I have two at home — Sylar, a Siamese, and Jo Jo.
After the run, Carrie Rozwara and her daughters, Addison, 13, and Aeriel, 16, visited the cats — Cassanova, Amore, Sampson and Holly — at the Animal Rescue Squad tent, but the family wasn’t looking to add members.
“I have a hoard of them myself,” said Rozwara, of Portage. “I take in all strays.”
Lupita Cardoza founded Animal Rescue Squad in 2007 and adopts dogs and cats every Saturday from the Highland Petco store.
Like many rescue founders, Cardoza started by picking up strays from the streets.
“I got frustrated because all the shelters were full,” said Cardoza, of Dyer. “So I started a rescue myself.”
Grunwell founded her fundraising organization after volunteering at a local shelter because she “wanted to do more.”
“I didn’t just want to help one organization, I wanted to help them all,” she said. “I’m a huge animal advocate, and I work hard to support rescues and shelters to help keep them going.”