WEST ORANGE, NJ — Members of the “West Orange Dogs” Facebook group pooled their resources to stage the the inaugural Barktober Halloween Dog Parade last Saturday at O’Connor Park.

The parade benefited the West Orange Animal Welfare League (WOAWL), a local 501©3 not-for-profit organization that works to avoid killing abandoned and unwanted animals in the area.

West Orange resident Laura Lab saw the photos posted by residents in the online forum of their dogs in Halloween costumes, she suggested that the group host a community dog parade and costume contest to benefit the local animal shelter.

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Lab, a participant with her own dog, Lacey, in other similar events. set out to raise funds to help support a local organization, and fellow residents Beth Platner, Stacey Reese and Jessica Fiorilli joined forced with Lab to help organize the event.

"I am so pleased that this came together in such a relative short period of time," Lab said. "What started out as a few posting pictures of their dogs on the West Orange Dogs Facebook page turned into a wonderful event that raised $2,371 for the West Orange Animal Welfare League."

Judges of the event included Mayor Rob Parisi, Liam Berzolla, a fifth-grader at Kelly Elementary School, and Emma Healey, a sixth-grader at Edison Middle School. There were five categories: Best pack (family getting dressed with dog), best couple (dog and owner), most "furoscious," most creative (all of which had first-, second- and third-place prizes), and "top dog."

"We are so indebted to our very generous sponsors for supporting this cause and for all the participants who came to the parade," Lab said. " I really do need to thank special events coordinator from the West Orange Recreation Department, Candy Myrick, who was absolutely fantastic in helping us plan this event."

Lab mentioned that Sandy Rubin deserves special accolades in the wake of the event's success. Rubin is the head of the volunteers at the shelter. "It is she and her volunteers who do the real work at the shelter," Lab stressed. "Raising money is easy...taking care of all the animals and running the shelter, not so much."

West Orange Department of Recreation Director Bill Kehoe and Special Events Coordinator Candy Myrick assisted in securing a location and in organizing the event.

All proceeds from the event are to benefit the WOAWL, which is run entirely by volunteers on what Lab describes as a limited budget.

“[WOAWL] runs on a very short leash, no pun intended, and they don’t have a lot of money,” said Lab. “The reason I chose it is because if any of our dogs got lost, that would be the first place that you’d turn to…You always assume that this service or this entity will be there, but if it wasn’t for the volunteers who actually run it, it wouldn’t be there.”

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