Karen wins Character Award in Eagle Rare competition!

By | Honors/Awards

28338_51c1f11eba64c8.71750715-bigWell friends, the votes have been counted and the judges at Eagle Rare have made their determinations. After months of rallying behind our Founder, Karen Shirk, we are pleased to announce that thanks to your commitment and tireless support, Karen has been selected for the Character Award in this year’s Eagle Rare Life competition!

There were hundreds of entries, and only 7 winning spots. Thanks to 4 Paws having such a loyal and caring extended family, Karen made it through each round of the competition to eventually be named one of the lucky 7! And the award is not only a much cherished honor, it also is accompanied by a $4,000 donation from Eagle Rare!

To read about Karen and the other winners, click here.

Thanks again to everyone who took time to vote, many of whom did so many, many times. You are the ones who made this prestigious honor possible!

Thanksgiving comes early at 4 Paws

By | Charity, Fundraising, Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

DSC_0010If you work at 4 Paws For Ability, it’s a definite possibility you feel as though Thanksgiving has come early this year.

Why, you might ask? The answer is simple.

We have a support network, or more like an extended 4 Paws family, that is generous beyond compare.

As most of you know, we hosted a gala on October 19th to celebrate our 15th year of service. Our goal was to spend an evening enjoying the company of as many 4 Paws friends as possible, and to raise money towards our building fund. In addition to the food and festivities, the gala also featured a raffle, silent auctions and the unveiling of our revised building plans by HiFive Development. The evening was also paired with a “One Day of Giving” Campaign, where contributions were matched by one of our donors.

The day ended with over $24,000 being collected, and with all of us at 4 Paws giving thanks for our many blessings. Every penny of that generosity gets us closer to our goal of upgrading and expanding our current facility; a necessary goal when attempting to keep pace with demand.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, we have the best fans and friends in the world. Thanks to everyone who donated time and money to make our 15th Anniversary celebration a success, and for helping get us closer to yet another dream coming true.



Below are some pictures of the evening. 


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Karen Shirk announced as Top 20 Finalist in Eagle Rare Bourbon Rare Life Contest!

By | Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

Eagle Rare Bourbon Announces the Top 20 Current

2014 Rare Life Award Nominees

There’s Still Time to Vote for your Favorite or Nominate Someone!


28338_51c1f11eba64c8.71750715-bigFRANKFORT, Franklin County, Ky (Oct. 2, 2013) Eagle Rare Bourbon Whiskey announces the current voting tallies for its 2014 Rare Life Award, an award that recognizes people whose lives embody Eagle Rare’s passion for excellence and demonstrate the epitome of courage, leadership, survival, heroism, devotion and character. With only three months remaining in the nomination process, the votes are very close between each of the top 20 vote nominees so far.  The $40,000 award will be donated to the winner’s charity early next year. 

As of Oct. 1, the 20 nominees who have received the most votes are, (in alphabetical order):


  • Bob Anderson- Decorah, Iowa
  • Andrew Christian- Coleville, California
  • Al Cecere- Gatlinburg, Tennessee
  • Marc Dibernardo- Louisville, Kentucky
  • Ryan Eversley- Morrisville, North Carolina
  • Howard Garrett- Freeland, Washington
  • Marge Gibson-Merrill, Wisconsin
  • Angie Goodwin- Beach Grove, Kentucky
  • Shawn J Gourley- Evansville, Indiana
  • Melissa Jarboe- Chisago, Kansas
  • Mac McQuown- Ocala, Florida
  • Becky Fox Ortyl- St Louis, Missouri
  • Shanda Renee- Paso Robles, California
  • Dr. Peter Sharpe- Avalon, California
  • Karen Shirk- Xenia, Ohio
  • Melissa Smith- Doniphan, Kansas
  • Charles J Stecker JR.- East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
  • Theresa Strader- Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Annette King Tucker-Claremore, Oklahoma
  • Janice Wolf- Midway, Arkansas

Of the 20 top nominees, their stories are varied from topics such as children’s rights, military heroes, saving animals, childhood diseases, and service dogs. What all of the stories have in common though, is their ability to tug at one’s heartstrings.

Kris Comstock, Eagle Rare Bourbon brand manager said, “We continue to be inspired by the nominees and are honored to help an increasing array of charities across the United States. We’re halfway through the voting process and have some great nominations so far.  But there’s still time to nominate someone you think leads a Rare Life, or to vote for your favorite nominee at www.eaglerarelife.com.”

Since nominations and voting began in May of this year, 120 stories have been submitted through Eagle Rare’s website. The Grand Prize award winner will be awarded a $40,000 donation for the charity of their choice. The Grand Prize winner will also receive an awards ceremony in the winner’s home town hosted by Eagle Rare Bourbon and the production of a short testimonial video.

In addition to the grand prize, six others will be selected for each key Rare Life characteristic and awarded $4,000 for the charity of their choice. This is the fourth year for the Rare Life campaign, and the 2014 awards will bring total grants to date for charities to $160,000.

Entries are available to view online at the Eagle Rare website. People can continue to vote for these inspiring nominees through January 7, 2014. At the end of the voting, a Grand Prize Winner and six finalists will be selected from 20 nominees receiving the most votes. Those winners will be announced the week of March 3, 2014.

For more information or to submit a nomination, visit www.eaglerarelife.com.


About Eagle Rare Bourbon

Eagle Rare Bourbon Whiskey is part of the award-winning Buffalo Trace

Distillery, a family-owned company based in Frankfort, (Franklin County), Kentucky. The

Distillery’s rich distilling tradition dates back to 1786 and includes such legends as E.H.

Taylor, Jr., George T. Stagg, Albert B. Blanton, Orville Schupp, and Elmer T. Lee. Eagle

Rare Bourbon is a 10-year-old single barrel bourbon that has won multiple awards,

including five double gold medals from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. To

learn more about Eagle Rare visit www.eaglerarelife.com.

4 Paws for Ability is once again participating as a CFC (Combined Federal Campaign) charity!

By | Charity, Fundraising, Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

cfcDear 4 Paws families:

4 Paws for Ability is once again participating as a CFC (Combined Federal Campaign) charity!

For those of you unfamiliar with this program, it was enacted into law by John F. Kennedy as the method of soliciting federal and military employees to allocate a certain dollar amount from their paychecks to give to charities that are thoroughly reviewed and approved by the government. The campaign officially kicks off in September and runs through December 15th.

If you are a federal employee or in the military, please designate 4 Paws. Also, please forward this information to your friends and family who work for the federal government or are in the military to please designate 4 Paws in the CFC campaign this year. Our CFC # is 59894.

This is a nice funding source for us…this year we will be receiving payments totaling $65,000.

Let’s see if we can increase it next year!

Again, our CFC # is 59894, and we are listed under “Animal Charities of America.”

Please spread the word! Thank you for your support.



P.S. 4 Paws is not a United Way affiliated agency; however, we receive donations if people write us in so if your employer participates in United Way, please write us in on your pledge card form and encourage others to do the same. Thank you!

4 Paws For Ability is one of 250 Finalists for Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program!

By | Charity, Fundraising, Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

7_100 Cars For Good Logo4 Paws For Ability is one of 250 Finalists for Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program!

4 Paws For Ability is proud to announce we’ve been selected as a finalist in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good Program. Now we need your support! Mark your calendars and vote for 4 Paws For Ability at www.100carsforgood.com on October 28th.

From birth to placement and beyond, our service dogs travel a ton of miles. Whether running out to the field to practice life-saving tracking skills or to venture out as an ambassador for educational forums, our dogs are constantly on the go. If fortunate enough to win, the new Toyota vehicle would be a valuable asset for ensuring safe and reliable transportation!

Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good program will award 100 vehicles over the course of 50 days to 100 deserving nonprofit organizations based on votes from the public. Winning organizations will use the Toyota vehicles to help expand their reach and missions within their communities.

Please support 4 Paws For Ability on October 28th with your vote!

Voting will take place at www.100carsforgood.com. 



4 Paws celebrating 15th year and dreaming of even bigger, brighter future

By | Fundraising, Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

karen-piper2Karen Shirk’s dream from the beginning was to create an opportunity for a large segment of people who were often overlooked or under-served in the service dog industry. Her dream was a big one, but one step at a time she pushed forward and was able to create the organization we know today as 4 Paws For Ability. There were plenty of challenges and endless amounts of hard work, but Karen has always been fueled by a higher purpose.


Her unshakeable commitment is why we are now able to say, “Happy 15th Anniversary 4 Paws!”

And more importantly, her efforts are why we are also able to say, “Congratulations on reaching over 700 service dog placements.” For a non-profit with such a small and humble beginning, that’s a huge achievement – multiplied by the understanding that each individual dog impacts the lives of many from the moment its career begins. It’s a testimony reminding us that just one person can make a huge difference.

To commemorate this joyous milestone will be a gala, held at the lovely Roberts Centre in Wilmington, Ohio on Saturday, October 19th from 6:30-9:30pm. The event will be a chance to bring together the friends, families, staff, supporters and affiliates of 4 Paws in celebration. But like most things done by the organization, the gala will also have a very special purpose – to raise money for its building fund.

Generating the funds for such a large construction project may seem like a daunting goal, but it’s most certainly no match for Karen’s passion. She’s passionate about the renovations because they mean much more than a facelift. The expanded building and upgraded facilities mean the capacity to assist even more people. It’s a level of growth that is much more than a want – it’s a necessity.

The demand for an agency like 4 Paws has always been huge. For years there was an entire community of people denied service dogs or unable to find one with the skills they specifically needed. Over the course of 15 years, 4 Paws has served this community, and in doing so has grown rapidly and garnered an abundance of media attention. Newspapers around the world have spread the word, including large media outlets like The New York Times and CNN. The ever-increasing awareness of 4 Paws For Ability has made it possible for more and more families to find the help they need, but it also means the organization has to work hard to keep up with the increasing demand. It’s a challenge Karen welcomes, but is also the reason a new building is high on the priority list.

Below is a copy of the official gala invitation, which includes details on the event and how to register. If you have any additional questions or would like to know about other ways you can help, please email Whitney@4PawsForAbility.org. Updates regarding the evening will be added in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

We hope you can join us for this special occasion as we celebrate 15 years and work towards an even bigger and brighter future!

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Karen and 4 Paws to be honored on “Walk of Fame” at San Antonio park

By | Charity, Honors/Awards, Miscellaneous

DSC_2135It is because of the kindness of our families and associates that we are able to spread awareness of our work. Such exposure often leads to our ability to grow and help even more people. Recently we were informed that one of our families went out of there way to get the 4 Paws name in lights in a very special way – by nominating Karen Shirk and our organization for a unique and precious award.

Located in San Antonio, Texas, Morgan’s Wonderland is the world’s only special needs theme park. The park’s vision is simply to establish a special place where smiles and laughter make wonderful memories with family members, caregivers and friends. To build a place where the common element of play creates an atmosphere of inclusion for those with and without disabilities, encouraging and allowing everyone to gain a greater understanding of one another.

Gordon Hartman

Gordan Hartman

It was a labor of love created by philanthropist Gordon Hartmen, inspired by observing his daughter Morgan, a child with special needs, struggling to stay included with her friends while playing at a hotel pool. This observation evolved into a safe, colorful, 25-acre park that serves as a haven not only for those with special needs but also for their families, friends, caregivers and the public at large.  Morgan’s Wonderland is a place where “kids” of all ages and abilities can have fun, and from the very beginning,  has admitted anyone with a physical or cognitive challenge free of charge.

Because Morgan’s Wonderland operates as a non-profit, it relies on the generosity of supporters to operate, just as we do. They host an annual gala to recognize the kindness of their donors, where they also take the time to honor 5 individuals who also make a difference in the special needs community. The public is encouraged to nominate candidates, and this year 4 Paws friends, the Pivonka family, nominated our Founder, Karen Shirk. Out of over 80 nominees, Karen was selected! Below is a portion of the email announcing her award:

Good Afternoon Karen,

It is my distinct privilege to advise you of your selection as an honoree for the Morgan’s Wonderland Walk of Fame!

Each year, a panel of judges selects five outstanding individuals from across the nation who have clearly distinguished themselves in helping those with special needs.  As one of our 2013 selectees, you will be honored at a luncheon on Friday, Sept. 20, in San Antonio and again at the “Free to Soar Gala” later that evening at Morgan’s Wonderland, the world’s first ultra-accessible theme park designed with special-needs individuals in mind but built for everyone’s enjoyment.  Please see the enclosure for more details.

In addition to recognition at the luncheon and gala, your name will be imbedded in a round, translucent “stepping stone” on our ¾-mile-long Walk and Roll Path that encircles our park’s scenic eight-acre lake.

The award was such a touching surprise! Karen and the rest of us at 4 Paws, would like to thank the Pivonka family as well as Morgan’s Wonderland for this incredible honor. We certainly cherish the sentiment, but also the opportunity to meet so many other passionate supporters of the special needs community.

At this point, Karen plans to make arrangements to attend the gala, so stay tuned for updates!


Walk of Fame stones light up at night!


What Karen’s stone will look like

Morgans Wonderland

Having fun in the music area


Sensory Village

Morgans Wonderland

A water park for everyone


The ever-popular carousel