Halbritter Wickens Funeral Services to donate additional funding to dog park

NILES — Niles business owners Steve and Sabrina Wickens do not normally throw a birthday party for their Labradoodle Osita.

This year, however, with Osita set to turn 8 years old Oct. 30, the couple decided to host a celebration. At Osita’s request, of course, the couple decided to use the occasion to pay it forward and help benefit Ruff & Tumble Dog Park.   

Steve and Sabrina, the owners of Halbritter Wickens Funeral Service in Niles, will host a birthday party for Osita at 5 p.m. Tuesday, at Ruff & Tumble Dog Park, S. 950 Bond St. The community is invited to bring their dogs and participate in the free event. The party will include treats for pups and people alike, a photo booth and dog toy giveaway. A check to the dog park will also be presented during the birthday party.

In addition to a free community party, Steve and Sabrina started a Facebook challenge to help raise money for the park. They offered to donate $1 for every like they get on Osita’s birthday picture through Monday. The photo was posted on Halbritter Wickens Funeral Services business’ Facebook page. The business offered to donate up to $1,000.

“It’s just a way to give back to the community,” Steve said. “We thought [it would be] a good way to celebrate her birthday and bring attention to the dog park.”

Ruff & Tumble Dog Park opened this summer as Niles’ first-ever dog park. The project was spurred by Katrina Andrews, the owner of Andrews’ Tax X Accounting. Andrews’ started a nonprofit, Ruff & Tumble Dog Park, and mobilized volunteers to successfully raise $35,000. Reaching this goal allowed the nonprofit to secure a matching grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The funds the park raised were largely earmarked to support future costs and with maintenance costs always ongoing, Andrews said she was grateful to see another business step up to donate to the cause. She said the donation could help to pay for maintenance costs or possible upgrades, such as agility equipment or a station for dog washing.

Andrews said she was also excited to hear that the business was getting creative with using the park and raising funds. 

“It is fun that this has taken on its own life,” Andrews said. “[This is] a fun thing to do for the community.”

Since the park opened, Andrews said the park has been a pretty big hit with dog owners. So far, she said about 100 dogs a week are utilizing the park.

As for Sabrina and Steve, Osita has been a member of their family since she was a puppy. While she is not a certified therapy dog, the couple said Osita serves as a comfort dog on request at the funeral home. Steve said labradoodles are ideal in the workplace, because they are hypoallergenic, do not shed and their breed is known for having a loving personality.

As of Monday morning, Osita’s photo had earned about 500 likes. Steve and Sabrina encouraged people to visit the park Tuesday and take part in the party.

“It’s a way to bring the community together,” Sabrina said. “If they have not come out to the dog park, I think it’s a great way to introduce them to it.”

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