Charitable Comedy

Charitable Comedy

Colorado vet helps raise $19,000 for Middle Keys animals

There’s nothing like a little laughter to help people dig deep into their pockets.

As Safe Harbor Animal Rescue of the Florida Keys (SHARK) prepared to assume leadership of animal control services in the Middle and portions of the Lower Keys last week, tickets to see television personality and exotic animal veterinarian Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald quickly sold out.

Fitzgerald’s local counterpart, Dr. Doug Mader of Marathon Veterinary Hospital, was recently on a plane with his friend of 20 years when the comedic vet from Denver turned to Mader and confessed his desire to hawk something different at the upcoming benefit.

Lynn Kallfelz and Marija Schissler placed winning bids for signed toilet seats bearing Animal Planet’s Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald’s autograph.

“I didn’t even realize how much money I’d bid!” laughed Marija Schissler of Uniques by Kennedy Studio, who bid $625 for an autographed toilet seat.

Among other high-dollar auction items were a trip to Costa Rica, a stay at a Florida Keys resort and fishing charter, but after realizing the demand for a signed toilet seat, Mader went in search of another canvas.

“Bait Shack” owner Steve Cook, whose wife Sheila serves as the board president for SHARK, generously donated another porcelain crown for which nurse Lynn Kallfelz also bid $150.

Mader said Fitzgerald has always been very generous with his time and talent; in 2006, only a few months after Wilma slammed the Middle Keys, he performed a similar comedy benefit to help rebuild the Turtle Hospital.

While in town, Fitzgerald also assisted Mader and the Turtle Hospital staff with a tracheoscopy and endoscopy of a green sea turtle named Pabst.

According to his biography on Animal Planet’s website and reiterated by Mader during his introduction, Fitzgerald’s veterinary career got off to a rather bumpy start when his first admission to veterinary school was denied. He continued his studies to earn both his Master’s and Doctorate and taught at the University of Hawaii before finally being admitted to vet school. Spending so much time in school gave the future doctor his summers off, and he spent that time working as a bouncer and touring with the likes of The Rolling Stones, George Clinton, Willie Nelson, The Who, Bob Marley and even Elvis.

Fitzgerald proved his prowess as an entertainer by concluding his standup routine with a tap dancing performance to lyrical styling of Mickey Mouse.

With only three weeks of planning, volunteer organizers successfully helped raise $19,000 towards SHARK’s spay and neuter program.

Organizers and board members welcomed Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald just before his performance. (L-R) Dr. Geraldine Diethelm, Sheila Cook, Dr. Doug Mader, Lynn D’Ascanio, Dr. Mike Dunn, SHARK Executive Director Katie Bentley, Fitzgerald and Cora Baggs.

“I think we put the right team together at just the right time, and everything just worked,” said Sheila Cook, SHARK board president. “I was overwhelmed with the business and private support from the community from people who live her all the time. I’m very impressed and very proud.”

SHARK is located at 10550 Aviation Blvd. and is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:30-4:30, Saturday and Sunday from 11-2. The facility is currently on a waiting list for a shelter-feeding program and required to purchase food at full price. Any donations of wet or dry dog and cat food are welcomed and greatly appreciated. Donations dropped off after hours may be left at the front gate.


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