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Bummer Fund and Love, Vincent give support to sick pets

Submitted photo Bummer, a cat owned by Anne McMahon, was the inspiration for the creation of the Bummer Fund, a group that offers help to pet owners faced with temporary financial hardships.

Pets are family members. When they are ill, their human companions will try anything to make them comfortable and get them the help they need to become healthier.

But sometimes, the cost of good health is out of reach. Other times, just receiving some comfort while going through an illness means so much.

That is where two local nonprofit organizations — the Youngstown-based Bummer Fund and Love, Vincent in Hartford — help.

A CAT NAMED BUMMER

The Bummer Fund was created in 1994 to honor a much-loved cat’s memory and in deep appreciation for the compassionate care he received from the veterinarian and his staff.

“Anne McMahon, the woman who started Bummer Fund, was allergic to cats,” Sue Sexton of Youngstown, president of the Bummer Fund board, said. “She had none until a sickly, stray cat appeared on her doorstep. She ended up taking him to veterinarian Dr. Charles Sung in Hubbard.

“Even though she suffered allergies, she kept him because he wouldn’t tolerate anyone but her or Dr. Sung. Because it was such a bummer that way, she made that his name,” Sexton said.

Sexton said she became involved in the Bummer Fund through the group’s founding veterinarian, now the consulting veterinary specialist for the organization.

“He invited me to be a part of a new fund for senior citizens at his clinic who might not have the financial resources to handle a major health crisis with their pet,” she said.

Within a few years, the Bummer Fund decided to help not only seniors but responsible pet owners in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties who were dealing with their pet’s life-threatening injury or illness at a time of temporary financial hardship.

SHOWING LOVE

FROM VINCENT

Love, Vincent is a charity that supplies care packages for dogs and cats faced with a cancer diagnosis. Its mission is to provide love and comfort to the animals and their families during this difficult time.

The nonprofit’s namesake, Vincent, was a beloved dog.

“Love, Vincent officially began in the summer of 2016,” said Rachel Martin of Hartford, Vincent’s human companion.

“When Vincent, a Labrador retriever-pitbull terrier mix, was sick, my friends and family were very supportive,” Martin said. “They raised funds for his medical costs, brought me gifts and spent time with me. I felt very loved and a little less alone.

“That same feeling is the reason Love, Vincent began. I wanted other families who were faced with their beloved pet having cancer to feel a little less alone in the journey,” said Martin, the charity’s president.

HELPING HANDS AND PAWS

With a history of loving pets, The Bummer Fund and Love, Vincent founders and board members are the right people to be involved with animal charities.

Sexton said she grew up with a dog. She did not experience life with a feline pet until college when she made an impulse buy at a pet store. After a holiday visit at her parents’ house, the cat stayed. She was happier there, Sexton said.

“My next cat was rescued from the streets of Kalamazoo, Mich. She stayed with me through graduate school in Colorado, my first job in Mississippi and finally came with me to Youngstown,” Sexton said.

For Martin, her love of dogs began as a child.

“I had two dogs growing up, Muffin and Red. They were black Labrador siblings. They were super friendly, and they loved car rides,” she said.

For the 271 care packages sent by Love, Vincent in the last two years, Martin said she selected items specifically for each animal.

“We always send a blanket and a picture frame. Depending on the animal, we send treats and toys. Some dogs don’t play with toys and some can’t eat treats. We accommodate to special diets. Depending on donations, we send peanut butter, tissues and collar accessories as well,” she said.

NOTES OF THANKS

Martin said she knows that what she sends out to pets and their families have an impact. Among the pet owners to receive them is Christy Cichra.

“Tulip, a Doberman, was rescued from a meth lab in Kentucky. I have been very lucky to be her mom for the last six years,” Cichra said. “In 2018, Tulip was diagnosed with lung cancer. I received a care package in August. It was a wonderful surprise. I cried for how thoughtful this gift was.”

Martie, a senior rescue Chihuahua-Corgi mix, also received Love, Vincent items. Her veterinarian mentioned that she was stronger than expected, which perhaps is credited to knowing others care through the package received and through the love bestowed on her by her human companion.

Mark Meszar of Boardman, now a Bummer Fund Board member, became aware of the nonprofit in his pet’s time of need.

“My wife, Heather, and I had a cat, Freya, with bladder stones. The surgery was too expensive for us despite having a good prognosis,” Meszar said.

“Our veterinarian had our history of responsible pet care on file and helped us make a grant request to the Bummer Fund. Freya had the surgery and stayed a part of our lives for more than a decade afterwards,” he said.

They attended the holiday fundraiser and felt so grateful that they volunteered and eventually became board members.

Jenna Rounds of Girard said, “The Bummer Fund saved our dog Diesel’s life.”

After extensive testing following bouts of not eating and vomiting, Diesel was diagnosed with an obstructed bowel. The family couldn’t afford the expensive surgery and made the heartbreaking decision to put Diesel out of his misery.

“As we sat there hugging him and saying our final goodbyes, Dr. Beauchamp of MEDVET in Girard came into the room asking if we would be OK with him trying to get some help so Diesel could get the surgery. We were filled with hope and, of course, we agreed,” Rounds said.

She credits the Bummer Fund for how healthy and thriving Diesel is today.

That is the point, according to members of both the Bummer Fund and Love, Vincent — to make sure pets’ lives are extended and comforted, and to give families increased time with their most important four-legged friends.

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