Fur a good cause

Photo by KATHY CLEVELAND Rick Tobin, with Diamond Sparrow, and Sherry Tobin, with Ocean Pearl, two of their six cats. This weekend the Tobins are holding their annual fundraising festival for Kitty Angels, a nonprofit, no-kill cat rescue organization.

AMHERST – Sherry and Rick Tobin call themselves crazy cat people, but their six cats are their children and they love them, and all other cats, for that matter.

That’s why, for 23 years, the couple has been hosting a fundraiser for Kitty Angels, a non-profit, all-volunteer cat rescue organization. The two-day event takes place at their shop, Treasures Antiques & Collectables, on Ponemah Road (Route 122.)

This year’s festival is Saturday and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when more than 100 vendors and entertainers will converge on their property.

Over the years, the Tobins acquired their cats from Kitty Angels, and Kameo Angel was the first, She died in 2008, and a banner with her picture with a halo over her head hangs in their antique shop. The polydactyl kitten, (“almost a triple-paw, a little catcher’s mitt,” said Sherry,) weighed less than a pound and Rick could carry her around in his shirt pocket.

Kameo came into their lives in 1994 after Sherry saw an ad for a double-pawed kitten and called a phone number, and Joan Abbott answered.

“Joan Abbott was, and is, Kitty Angels,” said Sherry. Abbott is the founder and president and has been running the Tyngsborough, Mass. nonprofit for more than 30 years without a brick-and-mortar shelter. A network of volunteers take the cats into their homes until permanent homes can be found.

After they adopted Kameo, the Tobins wanted to do something right away to help, and their festival started with a small area inside the shop. It eventually spread outside. Over the years the vendors multiplied, and the crowds line the road with cars all along Ponemah Road.

“We wanted to give something back – wanted to do something worthwhile,” Sherry said. She likes the fact that Kitty Angels is a no-kill shelter and “nobody takes a penny for themselves,” with 100 percent of the money from vendor fees and raffles going to the charity.

Kitty Angels has a Facebook page and prints an annual newsletter, but the Tobin’s’ festival is the only fundraising event.

“They’re just remarkable people,” said Abbott in a phone interview last week. “It was a lucky day for us all those years ago when they adopted the runt of a litter.”

The money raised from the festival goes toward the cats’ care, including medical care.

One of the worst cases was Lord Byron. Likely hit by a snowplow, he was rescued by a veterinary technician who noticed what she thought was a scrap of fabric in a snowbank. After being treated for major organ damage and frostbite, Lord Byron spent weeks in intensive care and became a celebrity with his own Facebook page. The latest posting shows he is now the best friend of the household’s dog.

At the festival, there will be food, shopping and entertainment, including a petting zoo, live bands and the New England Brethren of Pirates, a re-enactment and improv troupe that act as characters from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

The Tobins, who live in Merrimack, also have a smaller fall festival, but the spring event is the big one, a culmination of a year’s worth of work on their part, lining up vendors, arranging for necessities like police detail and portable toilets and hoping for good weather – the festival is rain or shine.

The dental practice of Clark & Leighton, just north of Treasures, allows parking for the festival in their lot. Pets are always welcome.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.