Cancer hit Mark Tillinger with a double whammy in 2008. Both he and his Bernese mountain dog, Riedel, were diagnosed with the disease. "I beat it, but she didn't" Tillinger recalls. "I was devastated, but the support I'd received inspired me to do something." He met with David DeChemin, manager of the veterinary clinic where Riedel had been treated, and who has also lost his Rotweiler, Cody, to cancer. The result was the Riedel and Cody Fund, an organization dedicated to supporting owners of pets with cancer. That support comes in many forms: financial, educational, and emotional.
The fund provides grants to help pay for treatment and maintains an extensive knowledge base on its website. "We have information on every type of animal cancer, places for people to find a vet, and blogs by pet owners as well as vets," says Tillinger, noting that more than 10,000 people have become members of the fund.
"A friend asked me why I was using my talents to focus on animals," says Tillinger, who retired from his job as a senior partner with Accenture to work fulltime for the fund. "I thought about it and said, 'It's really about humans, and their relationships with their pets.' There's such a strong bond between owners and their pets."
Although the group is less than a year old, it is already staging its first major event, FETCH, or Funding Education & Treatment for Cancer Hounds, on May 21. "We wanted a signature event that could grow to become national," Tillinger says. The inaugural event will take place in Stamford's Harbor Park, and features a scavenger hunt around the county to more than 30 participating vendors. Participants will return to the park at 12:30 p.m. to see who was the best scavenger, and to enjoy a concert by Mystic Bowie, a favorite regional reggae artist. Registration and information is available on the event website.