Parade organizer Tara Nestich, left, and Sherri Klingshirn stand with Klingshirn’s standard poodle, Penelope, who will be the grand master of the Pink Pooch Parade on Oct. 6. (Staff Photo: Karen Rohr)
CONYERS — With Breast Cancer Awareness Month a few days away and communities readying to launch fundraising efforts for breast cancer research, treatment and education, Rockdale is headed down a unique avenue to aid in the cause — the Pink Pooch Parade.
On Oct. 6 at 3 p.m., a group of local residents and their canines will come together to take a stroll through the streets of Conyers in the parade, which starts at the Pavilion in Olde Town Conyers and ends at Pine Log Park.
The Pink Pooch Parade is open to all dog owners and the cost to enter is $25. Those interested can register at the Pampered Puppy, 953 South Main St. in Olde Town Conyers or at the Pavilion on the day of the event. T-shirts will be given to those who sign up before the parade, but cannot be guaranteed if sign-up takes place on the day of the parade.
The event is designed to raise money for the Pink Patriots, a team of 12 people that includes members from Rockdale and Newton, who are participating in the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer in October 2014. The Pink Patriots are also walking in the 2-Day this year on Oct. 5 and 6.
Atlanta 2-Day team members have to raise $1,500 each, said Tara Nestich, who is organizing the Pink Pooch Parade.
The Atlanta 2-Day generates funds for Georgia breast cancer patients and breast health programs, as opposed to other breast cancer walks that provide money for national efforts.
“We wanted something that would benefit our county,” said Nestich, who owns the Pampered Puppy, a dog grooming business.
Nestich said that she has about 51 entries in the Pink Pooch Parade so far, and that she expects dogs to be decked out in their best pink clothes and ribbons. Some dogs will ride in push carriers, wagons and golf carts, down the streets of Conyers, which will be closed for the parade, and Scooby Doo will even make an appearance.
At Pine Log Park, parade-goers can take advantage of doggie vendor booths featuring canine clothing, veterinarians and dog training services.
Nestich is a team member of the Pink Patriots team for 2014. She said she understands the impact breast cancer can have on a person’s life. Both of her grandmothers died of breast cancer when she was a child and recently a friend battled the disease and underwent a double mastectomy.
“That really hit home,” said Nestich.
Nestich said the idea for the Pink Pooch Parade emerged after she had a conversation with Rockdale County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt about what the community could do to raise money to fight breast cancer locally.
She said he suggested they do something akin to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade held in Conyers each year, and incorporate Pine Log Park into the festivities.
“I said that would be so cool. Conyers never had an animal event like that before,” said Nestich, who added that the time of the parade, 3 p.m., is after church when people are available. “It’s a good way to get a different group of people out into the community.”
Nesbitt said he became motivated to fight the disease after watching his pastor’s wife die from breast cancer a few years ago.
“Even up to her last few days, she was very encouraging, she fought it down to the moment,” said Nesbitt.
Nesbitt said he brainstormed with Nestich and the Pink Patriots to create the Pink Pooch Parade.
“It’s about awareness of the disease, as well as bringing pet owners out,” said Nesbitt, who has a small dog named Sophie that will be in the parade. “My wife and kids, the whole Nesbitt clan is going to participate in this event. We’re excited about it … I really believe that this will be an annual event and it will grow and grow.”