5 April 2024

UPDATED: Paws4aCause is the Wollongong dog day changing lives right around the world

| Keeli Royle
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A group of people at a park with their dogs

The Rotary Club of West Wollongong is hosting its second Paws4aCause dog show to raise money for Interplast. Photo: Keeli Royle.

UPDATED: 5 April, 4.10pm: Paws4aCause has been cancelled due to the weather. It will be rescheduled for later in the year.

An Illawarra Rotary club is hosting a dog day with a difference for the second year running, with the community event celebrating our furry friends while fundraising for those in need of medical treatment across the Asia-Pacific region.

Paws4aCause is returning bigger and better in 2024 after attracting more than 100 pooches and raising thousands of dollars in its inaugural year.

“It’s just a dog show where all the community can come together,” organiser Di North said.

“There’s something there for everyone, whether you’re thinking of owning a dog, whether you own a dog, or just want to have a look at all of the stalls.”

Dozens of market stalls are set to showcase everything from doggy gelato and showbags to deaf-dog rescue adoption and the RSPCA, with the Wollongong City Council compliance officer also attending to answer questions about ownership.

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And there are plenty of other ways for you or your pet to get involved, with a major raffle, five dog competitions and even ”dog lotto”.

“We’re going to judge the best tail wagger, the best fancy dress, the most dignified old-timer, the best hairdo and the cutest puppy,” Di said.

“And Figtree Tyres and More donate tyres to us, so we put them in a ring and they’re all numbered. We sell those numbers and have a dog – an old male dog – and he wanders around and whichever tyre he lifts his leg on, that’s the winner of the dog lotto.”

But behind all the fun is an important mission, with the money raised going to not-for-profit organisation Interplast to improve access to complex surgeries for patients in the Asia-Pacific.

“What you find in a lot of developing nations is there are either no surgeons or there are general surgeons, but general surgeons aren’t trained to do reconstructive surgeries like cleft lips and palates, severe burns, contractures, and dealing with reconstruction after traumatic injury, so they’re the sort of services that we provide,” Interplast coordinator for Rotary engagement Janette Etherington said.

“So we have partnerships with the ministries of health in those countries and we provide the surgery by sending teams of volunteer surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses to those hospitals to provide the surgeries.”

These visits can be life-changing for children like five-year-old Rockson from the Solomon Islands, who had a severe cleft lip and palate.

“He and his mum travelled for three days by canoe to get to the hospital where they had heard an Interplast team was visiting,” Janette said.

After receiving two surgeries a year apart, Rockson was then able to eat and drink properly and learn to speak.

And the impacts are set to follow him and his family for a long time.

“It’s not uncommon for people with visible disabilities in developing nations to experience ostracisation in their community,” Janette said.

“Often a lot of kids with clefts don’t go to school because of bullying, which leads to them not being able to provide as well for their family as an adult as they would like to.”

But it’s not just a one-off fix for a few lucky patients, with the volunteer team training staff in those areas to perform the procedures in the future.

“Just as importantly, we also train the clinicians in the hospitals that we partner with, so every surgery is a training opportunity for the surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses in the hospital that we partner with,” Janette said.

“We also do mentoring and training away from the operating theatre because in an ideal world we’d actually do ourselves out of a job, there would be no need for the services that we provide.”

READ ALSO Dilys Hoser picks up friendship, fun and a new passion at Corrimal Rotary

The volunteers are vital to ensure the service can continue, but the organisation also relies on fundraising events such as Paws4aCause to continue funding their important work.

And it’s a cause close to Di’s heart.

“My first-born granddaughter, she’s now 19, she was born with a cleft palate and help was so readily available to her.

“So I thought being a Rotarian, I can do something about this, so I try and raise a lot of money for Interplast so we can do something about those sorts of problems in those countries.”

She’s hoping the community, and their dogs, will turn out to support the event.

“Last year we raised about $6000. I’m hoping we’ll go much bigger than that and get about $10,000 at least this year.”

Paws4aCause is on Sunday, 7 April, from 10 am to 2 pm at the Illawarra Dog Training Club, J J Kelly Park, in Swan Street, Wollongong.

Registrations for pets are $5, with more information and raffle tickets available at the Paws4aCause website and the event on the day.

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