More photos from the Bark for Life are available on the Daily Sun Facebook page.
Despite temperatures in the 30’s and a bitterly cold, relentless wind, a large crowd — both human and canine — showed up for the second annual American Cancer Society Bark for Life.
In a touching, poignant opening ceremony, organizer Kay Ovalle explained how she read about Spirit from Project Pawz updates on Facebook, and knew Spirit was who should be the grand marshal of the day. Spirit, a pit bull rescued by Lynn Gatlin, founder of Project Pawz, was found emaciated, malnourished, wounded and ill in Powell last July. Nursed back to health by Dr. Scott Barham, his staff and Lynn and Tony Gatlin, this dog became known around the world as donations for her care and treatment came in from people reading her story. Named appropriately for her indomitable Spirit, she came to be a symbol of hope, of second chances.
When it was discovered that Spirit had cancer, Dr. Barham, his staff, and the Gatlins squared their chins and saw it as one more hurdle. Spirit’s care included chemo, but she stood strong.
Ovalle read from the Project Pawz Facebook page, about how, in the midst of a health crisis in Lynn’s human family, Dr. Barham called her with the word Spirit had glaucoma. The Gatlins had another dog, Maverick, who had suffered with this disease, which manifests more painfully than in humans.
After much prayer, thought, and consideration, it was decided it was best for Spirit to let her go.
“I had never met Lynn Gatlin before today ...” said Ovalle. “Facebook can be used for good, and Project Pawz is an example of that. I tried to track her down, but it was difficult.”
Ovalle asked Gatlin to be the canine caregiver honored at Bark for Life, and Spirit to be the Grand Marshal. And though it turned out to be a posthumous honor, Spirit did what she did best, Ovalle said: Bring people together.
“Cancer is evil,” Ovalle said. “It not only takes people, it took Spirit. People loved Spirit, but nobody loved her more than these people right here,” she said, indicating the Gatlins and Barhams.
With many wearing “Spirit pink,” her brother, Tiger and Beauregard from Navarro College started the first lap around the track. Meanwhile, booths set up to benefit various Relay for Life teams sold human and puppy treats, along with drinks and other goodies.
“I’m happy with the turnout,” Ovalle said. “Like the Bible says, wherever two or more are gathered together ... people together in peace and harmony. It’s a success. More dogs and people than last year.”
During all this, the west end of Bunert Park hosted a car show with classic cars and hot rods, while the east end of Bunert was the source of wonderful smells from cooking chili and beans, as chiliheads competed for CASI points towards Terlingua.
On this particular cold, windy day one chili team had a big enclosed cooking trailer, brought by Barry Bancroft. Chili cooks Jerry Lamber, Robbie Swart, Mike McCarter, Aaron Montgomery and Lisa Yates all lined up beside the trailer, using it as a windbreak while Bancroft cooked inside the trailer.
“Robbie just leaves her chili alone, goes off to do some yoga or whatever, doesn’t stir it, then comes back and wins,” teased her brother, Mike McCarter.
“Odie is serious about it,” said Bancroft. “It’s his method — doesn’t matter what ingredients he uses, it’s his method that wins.”
“The first time Lisa ever cooked she won first place,” McCarter said of Yates, Bancroft’s sister.
“That was beginner’s luck!” chimed in Swart.
This time, however, was not Yates’ lucky charm, as she came in 10th in the chili competition. Ninth place was Johnnie Sullivan of Ennis; eighth was Mark Sanders, also of Ennis; Nancy Hewlett of Murphy took seventh; Alison Williams placed sixth; fifth place was Aaron Montgomery; Bancroft came in fourth; third place was Mike Rogers of Ennis; Vicki Sanders of Ennis took second place; and first place chili went to Jimmy Johnston.
In the beans competition, Rosa Gonzales placed third; Mike McCarter took second place; and Morris Moss of Garland took home the first place win.
In the canine competitions, first place in the “look alike” contest went to 5-year-old Tatum Averett, with her dog, Charlie. Second place went to Alex Peeler, 11, and his dog, a catahoula named Bubba.
Best dressed dog this year went to Raven, a female Boxer about 11 years old, who wore a tutu and purple shirt with a button, which read “I Walk for Reece.” A photo of Reece showed a female Boston Terrier, who died of bone cancer. Both dogs belong to Melissa Daniels.
In the Cars of Navarro County Car Show, 35 cars were registered, $350 raised in registration funds, and $187 raised in the 50/50. Best of Show was awarded to Don Schultz of Waxahachie for his ‘48 Ford. Best Muscle Car went to Ron Hollingsworth of Barry with his ‘68 Roadrunner.
Best car of 50s/60s went to Butch Doss of Axtel, 50 Ford; Best Street Rod was awarded to Todd Sykes of Webster for his 1931 Model A. Best Import went to Crystal Sander of Teague with a 1996 Toyota; Best Factory Hot Rod went to Bob Wetsel of Hubbard for a 2010 Camaro.
Tommy Herrings of Axtell won Best Restored with his 1950 Chevy Belaire; best project car went to Justin Martin of Powell with a 1976 Camaro; and People’s Choice was awarded to Mark McCain of Waxahachie with his 1957 Olds.