We live in a region with many rural communities; an area that also happens to have, overall, a significant number of timid, unsocialized and otherwise feral cats — the result of pet overpopulation and irresponsible animal ownership.
Feral cats, or "community cats," are not a problem unique to the Inland Northwest. Thankfully, though, the Spokane-based nonprofit animal shelter SpokAnimal has been running, since 2009, an incredibly successful program to help these painfully shy or semi-wild kitties find safe places to live, keeping them alive and cared for. SpokAnimal's Farm Livin' program, which places less-adoptable cats on rural properties as "working cats" in exchange for food and shelter, is the feature of a new 10-minute mini-documentary by GreaterGood.org and the Jackson Galaxy Foundation. (Note that the video player has a click-bait-y ad screen that you can skip after 10 seconds before the video begins.)
The video (an emotional and heartwarming watch for animal lovers of any stripe) highlights the success of the program, which has placed more than 1,700 less-adoptable and feral cats on properties across the Northwest. Cats in the Farm Livin' program are adopted out without any fees, and go to their new working homes having been spayed/neutered, vaccinated and with a clean bill of health. Their role as barn kitties is to keep nuisance rodents under control, in exchange for a warm place to sleep, food and water.
The mini-doc features interviews with Farm Livin' cat recipients, program volunteers and SpokAnimal staff. The video was created in partnership by Greatergood.org, an internationally active nonprofit that strives to "improve the health and well-being of people, pets and the planet," and the Jackson Galaxy Foundation. The latter was launched in 2014 by the star of Animal Planet's My Cat From Hell, renowned cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy.
Continuing efforts of the Forest Spokane Initiative — which aims to plant 10,000 new trees across the City of Spokane by the end of this year — the city's Residential Tree Program is again giving away free trees to residents within city limits.
At distribution events this spring and again later this fall, a combined 2,000 trees are to be given away through the program. When planted in residential areas, these trees help mitigate stormwater runoff from reaching the Spokane River. Property owners who live within the city can register for one tree, and any remaining trees that weren't set aside for pre-registration will be given away — first come, first served — on Saturday, April 24.
To reserve a tree, city residents can fill out an online form, but note that you need to choose a specific tree species when you do. Sixteen species are being offered at two distribution sites, including redwood, oak, maple, magnolia and others.
It's also important to determine where you'll be planting the tree before you choose. The mature tree's height and circumference might limit where you can plant, based on other trees in your yard, overhead wires and other factors. To make finding that information easy, the above link to the species list includes that information and ideal growing conditions for all trees.
As anyone who's purchased started trees from a nursery knows, they're not cheap. This is a great program for city residents to take advantage of, while greening up your own backyard and helping keep the local watersheds healthy and clean.
For awhile there, it seemed that the Inland Northwest had become a hotbed of color runs, mud races and other oddly themed fun runs that sought to encourage all ages and abilities to come out and hit the course. Back in 2014, when we ran this story for InHealth magazine on the trend, there were many alternative races like this on the calendar, only to die down the following year.
But this May, a new race that incorporates the same "running is fun and accessible to all" theme, called the Insane Inflatable 5K, is coming to town.
Rather than coat participants in powdered dye or mud, this race, as its name implies, incorporates inflatable obstacles along the 3.1 mile course — each a bouncy castle spin-off with cheeky names: "big balls," "the humps," "the mad house," "mattress run" and "slingshot."
Set up along the 5K course, participants can take as long as they'd like in the un-timed event to jog from bouncy obstacle to obstacle. The race's start is divided into waves to avoid what could be a major bounce house traffic jam.
Race entry isn't cheap — $49 in advance, and $75 the day of — but a portion of proceeds are going to the Spokane team for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. Runners also get a T-shirt and a medal for completing the event. Beyond the race itself, the event offers a beer garden and a festival area called the "Midway" with games, food, merch and more.
The Spokane event is set for May 14, at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex.
A few weekends ago while in Seattle for business, Ryan Oelrich spent the afternoon playing giant board games downtown with complete strangers. Now, that inspiring experience has become the spark of a community project already well on its way to becoming a reality: Spokane Sidewalk Games.
“It was a very inspiring moment for me," Oelrich says. "I watched business professionals sit down with the homeless and smile, talk and enjoy each other’s company. I’m frequently complaining to my friends that people don’t talk to one another and connect as much as we should.”
So far, in about a week's time (he first saw the games on Feb. 20) Oelrich has secured sponsors (Global Credit Union) and ordered Spokane some of its own super-sized games — chess and Connect Four, so far. He hopes to purchase giant-sized versions of checkers, Chutes and Ladders and Tic-Tac-Toe.
Oelrich's large network of local connections has helped the project quickly move from a moment of inspiration to something he hopes to publicly debut by May. He currently serves on the board of directors for the nonprofit arts venture Terrain, and is the executive director of Priority Spokane, which supports local students who are homeless.
Because of those connections, local artists have offered to put their artwork onto game pieces. Oelrich has also found a way for the project to offer employment opportunities for local homeless youth. Teens supported by the Volunteers of America's Crosswalk Youth Shelter downtown will staff the games during weekends and other major events to encourage the public to come participate, and also to help prevent any random acts of vandalism to the game pieces (a concern that's been frequently mentioned to him). Several groups have already reached out with interest in hosting the games, including local farmers markets. The plan is to set up the games at big annual events — Bloomsday, Hoopfest, Pig Out in the Park and others — and during arts events like Terrain's October arts showcase and the Bazaar arts market in June.
"It's been such a fun project to watch come together so quickly," Oelrich says. "I love that this ties into my work of putting Crosswalk youth to work, and since I'm on the Terrain board, this brings my whole world together."
Those interested in donating to the project can contact Oelrich directly at [email protected] Several sponsorships, which includes funds to pay youth employees, are still available.
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