By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
While Comic-Con offers sci-fi and comic book fans a chance to dress up as superheroes, the organizers of PAWmicon say their event can inspire real life superheroes to adopt orphan dogs and cats.
“There are thousands and thousands of people who will line up to see their superhero on a day of Comic-Con, but these little babies that we have over here wait sometimes months and months and years and years to meet their superhero,” said Jessica Gercke, communication director for Helen Woodward Animal Center. “So it’s a way of reminding people that they can do a superhero action on any day, by adopting an orphan pet.”
PAWmicon is now in its fourth year, but this will be the first year it will be held at Hazard Center in Mission Valley.
“Hazard Center is thrilled to support the work being done by the Helen Woodward Animal Center,” said Lisa Gualco, Hazard Center’s general manager. “Given we’re centrally located, have plenty of parking and the backing of our tenants — we think Hazard Center is the perfect spot and hope to make this an annual event.”
When PAWmicon began, it was just a photo shoot of the animals in the lobby of the Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe. But the event quickly grew into a popular side attraction to the main event held annually Downtown.
“Comic-Con is such a huge event in San Diego,” Gercke said. “And one of the things I like to do at Woodward Animal Center, is find things people are excited about and find a way to turn that excitement into excitement for our orphan pets. A lot of people who have pets, love to get their pets all dressed up, so I thought years ago, ‘What if we get all our little orphan pets all dressed up like different characters, like Bark Kent and the Pawnisher and they have their own little convention.’”
This year’s PAWmicon will be an expanded event, Gercke said, and because of the new location at Hazard Center, there will be more opportunities for attendees, including stages, carnival games, prizes donated by shops in the center, and the UltraStar movie theater will be giving away tickets and other promotional items related to the animated film “The Secret Life of Pets,” which will be playing during the event.
Parking and public transportation will also make it more convenient for people to squeeze in attending the event during the busy weekend.
For pet owners who want to join in on the fun, there will be a costume contest with prizes. Cost is $10 to enter and the proceeds go to the orphan pets.
“People come with the most creative, adorable outfits. Last year someone made a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfit for her dog. They literally hand make these costumes,” Gercke said.
There will also be booths for learning about the work the Helen Woodward Center does and a chance for people to meet pets available for adoption.
The Helen Woodward Center was founded in 1972 and has 12 unique programs that are dedicated to the mission of “people helping animals, animals helping people.” The first programs at the center were pet adoption and humane education for kids.
Now the center’s programs include pet encounter therapy, where animals go visit in hospitals convalescent homes and halfway houses; a therapeutic riding program that teaches horseback riding to disabled adults and children; the Home for the Holidays program, that works with thousands of rescue organizations across the planet to encourage adoption of rescues — over puppies and kittens from pet stores — during Christmas time; a pet hospital and an equine hospital; and the Animeals program, which works in conjunction with Meals on Wheels to deliver pet food to home-bound elderly and disabled people.
PAWmicon is also an opportunity to reach demographics of people who don’t yet know of or support the Helen Woodward Animal Center.
“A number of the people that come to our centers are older and we have so many wonderful younger people that get excited when they hear we’re doing a PAWmicon thing,” she said. “So it’s a nice way to reach out to new people that are not as familiar with our center.”
Even with the fundraising, prizes, and informational aspects of the event, Gercke said PAWmicon is just basically a fun event with one main message.
“The superheroes are the ones that come and give these orphan pets a beautiful forever life,” she said.