MetroWest Daily News
By bike or boat — or even tractor — Phinney’s Ride is back again in 2021.
The ride is open to anyone who makes a trip in the name of fundraising to provide care and financial assistance for the four-legged friends of Massachusetts people with HIV and AIDS.
“Some people that donate, they know how important their pets are to them and they’d hate to see pets get taken away from other people just because they’re going through hard times,” said Roger Peduzzi, 73, a retired veterinarian who has been doing cycling fundraisers for the nonprofit since the early 2000s. “I think helping people like that is what we should do."
Helping people keep their pets
Phinney’s Friends Inc. is a nonprofit based in Lincoln that helps low-income people keep their pets in Massachusetts by doing such things as picking up the tab on vet bills; helping pay for registration fees; providing food; or arranging fostering when people are in the hospital.
“My interest started back when I was in practice and I did have several clients that were HIV positive and I kind of saw that they were discriminated against.” said Peduzzi, who founded the Hudson Animal Hospital in 1986. “I guess I felt like it was one way to support them and let them know they weren’t completely alone.”
Peduzzi said the ride was a great way to get together with old friends, and since the ride started in 2013, many of the donations he collected came from veterinary clients.
How did Phinney’s Friends get started?
Phinney’s Friends was founded by the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1996, and became an independent nonprofit in 2009. It's named for Bill Phinney, a law enforcement officer for the MSPCA who died in 1995 of complications due to AIDS.
“It was devastating for everyone to see him lose his own pets when he got sick, because he needed help taking care of them, and he didn’t have that kind of support,” said Phinney’s Friends Inc. President Daniela Caride, of the help the nonprofit offers. She said she has found her best friends through Phinney's Friends, forging connections with others who wanted to donate time helping people and animals.
The ride, she said, raises “funds for a group of people who need help with their pets that is very dear to our heart, because it’s related to the way we started.”
Any ride will do for the 25th anniversaryThis year, the 25th anniversary of the nonprofit, people can participate with any type of ride, not just bicycles. Participants have until Nov 1 to embark on their trips — or pledge at least $100 to receive a “Couch Potato Hero Certificate.”
Peduzzi will soon lead an 80-mile bicycle ride through Rhode Island with a small group. He said the average age of his group of riders is in the mid-60s, but he’s hoping younger riders become interested in the nonprofit and take up the torch in years to come.
“We thought it would be really nice to be able to offer something that people can do by themselves or do with their friends, do as a family, and not necessarily rely on going to an event that people may not feel comfortable with," Caride said. “I’m planning to do a tractor ride, because we have a little farm here, just for the fun of it."
Lillian Eden can be reached at 617-459-6409 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LillianWEden.
Nonprofit helps pets and people alikeBy Victoria Bedford|Sep. 21st, 2014Send to Kindle“I called 911, because I didn’t know what was going on,” she said. “I took him to the emergency room — that’s when they diagnosed him with epilepsy.”
The veterinarian suggested the dog be euthanized and advised Parkhurst, who lives on a monthly disability check, to start another search for a healthier, less expensive, lower-maintenance dog. But Parkhurst didn’t agree.
“I told them they can’t put him down because he’s sick,” she said. “I have multiple issues, and they’re not putting me down. No way.”
Without knowing how she could afford to keep Cody healthy, Parkhurst proceeded to take the puppy to obedience, advanced obedience, and service training. Meanwhile Cody’s medical bills were growing, with three medications a day, special dog food, and frequent veterinary appointments. That’s when Parkhurst received a call from Phinney’s Friends, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping low-income people keep their pets.
In 1994, the MSPCA established Phinney’s Friends to assist low-income, disabled, and elderly individuals, and people with HIV/AIDS and their pets. In 2009, it lost all government funding and became an independent nonprofit.
“A group of volunteers got together and we decided to keep it going,” said the group’s president, Daniela Caride, who runs the nonprofit’s headquarters from her home. “Even if it’s only advice, we help anybody who needs help.”
Phinney’s Friends has 60 regular clients and helps others on an emergency basis. The organization’s 150 volunteers walk dogs, deliver food and pay for medications, and make regular appointments to check up on clients.
“What we do is a little bit of everything,” Caride said.
Parkhurst connected with Phinney’s Friends through a referral from the Kindness Animal Hospital, her regular veterinarian.
“They called us and told us about this woman with a service dog who needed a little help,” Caride said. A volunteer from Phinney’s went to Parkhurst’s home and offered her their standard $125 per year for regular clients (now $250, as of last April) to help with medical fees. Parkhurst gladly accepted the funds.
“A little help is better than none,” she said.
As her relationship with Phinney’s progressed, Parkhurst began to see just how far the nonprofit was willing to go for her and Cody.
“I did not know they were going to show up a month later with a 30-pound bag of dog food,” she said. “I was in tears. It was not expected.”
In addition to dog food, volunteers surprised Parkhurst by driving her to appointments, and to get supplies. The biggest surprise of all came in the form of the veterinary bill for Cody’s $600 to $800 in treatments, charging a mysteriously low $0.
“It’s so cute; she never asks for anything,” said Caride. “So when we have the funds, we have to call the vet and ask if Arlene has an outstanding bill, and we pay it.”
Parkhurst and Cody are visited each month by a volunteer. As of June, Alakananda “Ally” Rangachari, 24, of Acton, sees the duo regularly.
“It’s such a rewarding experience,” Rangachari said, “especially to hear how much she’s been helped by the organization.” The Ithaca College graduate was looking for volunteer opportunities, and was motivated to join Phinney’s because of a personal love of pets.
“I have three dogs of my own; they mean everything to me,” she said. “It’s so great that there’s an organization that helps people keep their pets, especiawlly when they’re going through hardships.”
Most Phinney’s volunteers understand relationships with animals from a personal perspective. Caride, who owns four cats and three dogs, says pet ownership keeps clients healthy.
“We’re not only helping pets,” she said, “we’re helping people who need their pets.”
Today, Cody is 4 years old, and works every day as a dedicated service dog. He still has seizures, but now Parkhurst knows how to deal with them.
“I turn it into a game,” she said. “I just turn it into one-on-one social time. It might take an hour, or it might take three hours, but he goes back to normal.”
As for Parkhurst’s health, she feels better than ever.
“My life has changed drastically.” she said. “[I don’t have] a lot of the issues I used to have, because Cody picks up on them before they happen.”
Parkhurst says she would have always done anything in her power to keep Cody healthy, but she doesn’t know how it would have been possible without help from Phinney’s Friends.
“I don’t know if they realize how much help they really are,” she said. “They are such a blessing, I can’t put it into words.”
Victoria Bedford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow her on twitter: @tori_bedford.