Marsh seemed calm and comfortable as he walked through Willow Glen Park on Saturday.
The stately horse, white with brown spots, waved his head as he was led through the crowd on a rope. He stopped to welcome pats from passersby.
That he could be there is a bit miraculous. But it also explains exactly why the Hops for Hooves event is so important.
The annual fundraiser benefits Gray Muzzle Manor, a shelter for elderly and sick animals that also offers several community programs aimed at discovering the positive effects of interacting with animals on human health.
Much of the money raised from last year’s benefit went to Marsh. It helped to remove a cancer-ridden eyelid and give him three rounds of chemotherapy.
The effort paid off. Marsh is doing well today, healthy and happy.
And Marcy Tocker, the founder and executive director of Gray Muzzle Manor, hoped this year’s event would provide the same kind of support to other animals in need of help, like Marsh.
The fundraiser consisted of beer and wine from more than 25 different Pennsylvania companies. There were also food trucks, vendors and musical entertainment in addition to animal performances from Gray Muzzle Manor.
“We’ve been running this fundraiser for five years now and it just keeps growing,” Tocker said.
And as the community’s support continues to grow, so does the sanctuary.
Tocker, a mental health professional, said the organization was able to expand its services when it moved two years ago from a 4-acre farm near Fleetwood to a more spacious 45-acre estate in Mohrsville.
“It’s so exciting to see all these people coming to support us,” she said.
Gray Muzzle Manor is an organization close to Dave and Bree Kantner’s hearts. The Temple couple, who came to enjoy craft brews for charity, said they are strong supporters of the programs and services the nonprofit offers.
“They take care of our older animals when no one else does,” said Bree Kantner. “They let these animals live the rest of their lives in comfort and peace. They also focus on providing mental health care, which is something I find very important.”
As the owner of a pet care company, Bree Kantner said she has known the organization since it came on the scene and would not miss a chance to support her efforts.
Her husband said he loves the idea of spending an afternoon sampling the latest brews from local craft breweries, knowing his money is going to a group that is as passionate about animals as he is.
Jason Sweitzer liked that idea too. He had found the Hops for Hooves event on Facebook but was unfamiliar with Gray Muzzle Manor, so he did a little research into what the organization does. And that was what sealed the deal for him.
Sweitzer said he was happy to support the cause as he celebrated his 42nd birthday with friends.
“It’s a win-win situation everywhere,” said the Fleetwood resident.
Fred and Lisa Lego also found the event via Facebook. The Cambria County couple were looking for something to do while visiting their son and grandchildren in Reading when it popped up.
“I didn’t really know about it, but it seemed like a good time,” Lisa Lego said. “This is a great event for the community and now that I know more about what this organization does, I’m confident we can support it.”
All proceeds from Saturday’s event will help fund:
• Animal shelter and hospice. This program gives seniors and animals with special needs a safe space to live their best lives, however short that may be.
• Animal assisted therapy. Tocker practices animal psychotherapy to help people who struggle with trauma, impulse control, anxiety, depression, stress, and more.
• Community reach. A program that helps families where possible keep older animals out of the shelter by assisting with veterinary care, training, food and other pet supplies.
• SAFER, which provides long-term foster care on a case-by-case basis for individuals seeking protection from domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health care.
• Stable moments. This mentoring program uses equine guided learning for children in the foster care system to help them develop a variety of life skills.
• A new day. A horse riding program that helps treat patients with neurological or other disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, head injury, stroke, spinal cord injury, behavioral and psychiatric disorders.