Paws for a Cause

From left, parade participants included Pam Chapdelaine of Sarasota with Gidget, 13, in the pink outfit and cowgirl hat; Jody Robinson of Gulfport with Spirit, 9, and Angel, 13, two Maltese sporting patriotic red, white and blue collars; and, Karla Yoder of Gulfport with Monte, 3, a Puggle, which is a combination Pug and Beagle, and Razcal, 6, a Maltepoo, which is a combination Maltese and Poodle. Monte is a support dog and Razcal is a therapy dog.

Nothing says small-town summer fun like a doggie parade. And even more so if it’s for a good cause. The non-profit Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP) West Central Florida Chapter, based in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, sponsored an inaugural fundraising evening for the benefit of area veterans at Gulfport’s Peninsula Inn on Wednesday, June 21. The evening’s entertainment included a human fashion show, silent auction and, yes, a doggie parade.

Proceeds from the event will help pay for needs such as utilities, groceries, gas and rent to stop evictions, said Jim McPeak, chapter president and US Air Force veteran.

“The Peninsula Inn has been very benevolent to us,” said McPeak. “We enjoy them and it’s a great atmosphere.”

For two years, the local chapter has been “training real estate and mortgage professionals on how to help veterans,” said McPeak. “We also train the veterans at a once-a-year summit where we tell them about all of the benefits they have with a Veterans Administration [housing] loan. We try to get them qualified any way we can.”

The national organization was established in 2011 and is based in California.

VAREP has given away 22 free homes to veterans across the country with two being in Florida, said McPeak. “One home was in Dunedin in 2016 and one was earlier this year in Spring Hill.”

The inaugural fundraiser grossed $2,300, said Carol Meyer, chapter secretary. “And, we plan to do it again next year.”

To find out more about the local chapter of VAREP and its events, contact McPeak at 813-495-3875 or email

Gidget, 13, who is part Chihuahua and part Papillon, was into her pink outfit but the “bling cowgirl hat” was clearly another matter, said owner Pam Chapdelaine of Sarasota.




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