Society plans Paws for the Arts

Published 2:54 pm Friday, January 22, 2016

Animal lovers and one-of-a-kind art pieces will combine to raise money for the Suffolk Humane Society at the third annual Paws for the Arts Gala on Feb. 6.

“The Suffolk Humane Society does not receive any support from any national organizations whatsoever,” said Rhonda Jones, director of events and vice president of the board of directors. “It’s all community based. It’s these events that allow us to raise money so we can have the programs we have.”

This year’s event will once again feature a live auction, live entertainment and heavy hors d’oeuvres.

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One of the more unique items in this year’s auction is a child’s toy horse barn restored to a handcrafted, three-dimensional art piece.

Amy Wilkerson, the artist, is a breast cancer survivor and manages the surface characterization labs at the Applied Research Center for the College of William and Mary, which involves investigating the properties of materials down to the nano scale.

She pursues her fascination with the miniature through her hobby of restoring dollhouses as well.

“I love animals and have two rescued cats. I give a doll houses a new life, and I saw this as a way to help raise money for an organization that works so hard to give homeless pets another chance,” Wilkerson said in a press release. “My husband and I have attended the event, and I thought I would get involved in a more personal way this year.”

She and her husband, Harry Eller, gently restore the dollhouses rescued from yard sales and estate sales. She found the doll horse barn at a yard sale. Eller constructed the fencing, installed lighting and helped with other repairs. Wilkerson restored the barn and began collecting the contents, down to the most minute detail, complete with horses, tack room, hay, garden hose, and even a wolf lurking nearby.

She will provide the highest bidder with a photo book detailing the story behind each piece and how the barn was given a second chance and new life as art.

Other auction treasures include one of a kind art created by many local and regional artists, including C. Edward Vann, Neil Duman, Robbie Garrity, Acara Phipps, Ruthanne Miller, Dorey Ficklin, Jackie Sharp, Fiona Baxley and Nancy Kinzinger.

In addition, other auction items include an unpainted Norfolk mermaid, a beach house stay on the Outer Banks, Norfolk Tides VIP suite with full catering, a pizza a week for one year from Amici’s, gift certificates from The Catering Place, Suffolk Animal Hospital, and more. Mike Duman will be the auctioneer.

Jones said the society still is on the hunt for auction items.

The event also will include therapy dogs as donation dogs, Jones added.

The proceeds from the event support programs of the humane society, including low-cost spay and neuter events, foster programs for dogs and cats, B.A.R.K.S. (Books and Reading for Kids in Suffolk), where children can read to a non-judgmental therapy dog, and more.

“We like to keep funding available so we can help the community in any way possible when different things come up,” Jones said.

The semi-formal event will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 6 at the Hilton Garden Inn, 100 E. Constance Road.

Tickets are $50 and are available at the Suffolk Humane Society office, 4300 Nansemond Parkway, Mike Duman Auto Sales, 2300 Godwin Blvd., or online at

For more information, contact