How A Rescue Event Grew Into A Full, Animal-Saving Foundation: Meet The Founder Of ‘It’s All About The Paws’

Leia hanging out at the event and checking out the prizes!

Leia hanging out at the event and checking out the prizes! (Picture Credit: Amanda)

2020 has been a tough year for public events and rescues alike, but It’s All About the Paws (IAAtP), a combination of the two, used some creative problem-solving and was able to pull off a successful sixth annual event this October.

The pandemic has created some pretty fierce cabin fever for us all, and while I was nervous to go anywhere, I was intrigued by how fun and safe this great cause appeared to be when it popped up on my Facebook recommendations.

However, as amazing as the event itself was, the best part was meeting the founder and CEO, Erika Seibert. I was awestruck at her passion and dedication, as well as her success.

It was hard to believe such a large-scale annual event and nonprofit organization was founded and run by someone so young. I knew her story would be inspirational to the readers of DogTime, and I was very happy she was excited to share.

Switching It Up In 2020

Raffle prizes galore!

Raffles galore! (Picture Credit: Amanda)

It’s All About the Paws is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit in the Chicago area, which started as an event to bring together supporters for animal rescues and has blossomed into its own foundation and adoption host.

With so many supporters lined up and adoptions at stake in a year when shelters have been challenged in every way possible, IAAtP was determined to find a way to continue the tradition of their event.

The event itself is traditionally outside at a large park, this time, in St. Charles, IL, which made it easier than transforming a different kind of event.

One way they adapted the event was to make their costume contest virtual, so everyone could participate if they wanted to without needing to attend in person.

Ecstatic to win the "family" category for the It's All About the Paws costume contest

We were ecstatic to win the “family” category for the IAAtP costume contest (Picture Credit: Amanda)

The costume contest is actually the aspect of the event that first caught my eye — as a lover of costumes, dogs, and especially dogs in costumes — and I just had to enter us. We were ecstatic to win the family category!

Eyes on the prize!

Eyes on the prize! (Picture Credit: Amanda)

The gift bag was a very generous assortment of treats from various donors. Leia was proud and excited to dig in!

In addition to the costume contest, the event had several animals available to meet and adopt; live music from local musicians; awesome baskets of prizes to raffle off; a photo booth; and many vendors.

While it was great to see the event so well-attended, it was also nice that it was outdoors and spread out, so people were able to maintain social distancing while taking in the fun. Everyone was respectful of personal space and/or wearing masks.

at the photo station

(Picture Credit: Amanda)

Of course, we couldn’t resist getting a photo at the fall harvest-themed photo station!

After the 2020 event, I spoke to Erika, who founded It’s All About the Paws, to find out more about how this all came together and grew into such an amazing foundation.

‘It’s All About The Paws’ Starts As A Dream — Literally!

AMANDA: Where did the idea for It’s All About The Paws and the adoption/fundraising events come from? How has that all evolved over the years?

ERIKA: This might seem super cliché, but it literally happened to come to me in a dream — rescues, vendors, a huge event all coming together; it’s too funny to say that for our story of the organization.

I worked at a company called IPMG, our yearly sponsor to date, and pitched the idea to HR. Long story short, I was able to go for it. No one expected the event to turn out the way it did, including myself.

We had seven rescues, over 20 adoptions, raffle baskets, food trucks — all on the front lawn of IPMG. And that’s where it all began. I owe so much to that company for fully sponsoring the first event and giving me the opportunity to go for it.

My entire life, I have always had a deep passion for animals. Since my childhood, I have always known I would do something to help all animals; I just never knew what that would entail.

Six years ago, I started this event with not much knowledge of the scene behind rescue. It broke my heart to see and hear of terrible stories, yet I felt so helpless because I felt I couldn’t do anything.

I wanted to help. I wanted to be a helpful light to these animals. I wanted to raise awareness. I wanted to bring everyone together for a great cause. And, with grace, it happened — successfully! Year after year!

I love seeing IAAtP old logos, old ideas, past volunteers, but most of all… I absolutely love seeing all of the adopted animals in their loving forever homes.

I receive pictures year after year from families who have adopted while at IAAtP, and it is nothing short of amazing and special. It’s what keeps me going, keeps me planning, keeps me organizing, formulating, and expanding.

This event means so much to me, and in a way, is my heart, front and center, for everyone to see for an entire weekend. I thrive on bringing people together for the greater good and will continue to shed light on the importance of adoption and working together.

It’s All About The Paws didn’t start with the idea of becoming a foundation; it was just a yearly event that I created from a deep passion for animals. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make IAAtP a foundation, though. I enjoyed the yearly event, and that was good enough for me.

I wanted IAAtP to be different, and I didn’t know how to do that, but I realized, with the help of two amazing people in my life, that we don’t have to be different. We just have to make a difference, and that we can do.

In rescue comes a lot of heartache and negativity. We want to be a light for rescue, a small break of positivity to see how much good is happening in the rescue community.

What Sets IAAtP Apart?

The IAATP Event, 2020

The IAAtP Event, 2020 (Picture Credit: Amanda)

AMANDA: That’s incredible. I love the origin story of this event and foundation! What is IAAtP’s mission? What makes you different from other animal rescue organizations, or what similar services do you try to provide?

ERIKA: Thank you! I can probably best answer those questions with our Mission Statement: It’s All About The Paws, NFP is a 501(c)3 foundation that is dedicated to raising awareness and educating our communities on the importance of adoption, spay & neuter programs, and health & wellness.

IAAtP is dedicated to supporting the rescue community and bringing awareness to their adoptable animals and mission in hopes to help make Chicago a no-kill city.

IAAtP is dedicated to educating our community on animal advocacy, animal welfare, and anti-cruelty products. Part of our mission is to spread awareness for all animals on this planet.

Spreading love, positivity, and intentional living is at the core of our foundation. We fight and stand by the ones who don’t have a voice, hoping that our mission reaches and changes the hearts and minds of many.

We are different in the way that we don’t specifically rescue or pull from animal controls — yet; you never know what the future holds. We also have two programs:

  • Rehome Assistance Program: There is a need for help in our communities with our animals, and we want to be there to help you through it all. Our goal for this initiative is to assist families in safely rehoming their animals to help ensure they are getting adopted by safe and loving homes. We have two dogs, Colt and Star, and two rabbits, Jorie and Maiz, in our program right now.
  • Animal Welfare Partnership Program: During our annual adoption event, we partner with local and trustworthy animal organizations. The months following, we dedicate each month to one organization to assist in raising donations and share their mission and adoptable animals to spread awareness.

There’s more information on our website: www.itsallaboutthepaws.org.

Even The Pandemic Can’t Keep Us Down

AMANDA: I so enjoyed your fundraising event earlier this month! Were your goals different this year than previous years? What were some positive results of your event this year?

ERIKA: I’m so happy to have met you during our sixth annual adoption event (It’s All About The Paws: Adoption Event)! Honestly, we didn’t expect much for this year.

We were trying our best to go with the flow and be prepared to not raise nearly the amount we have in years’ past.

We also were not expecting the community to show up like they did with the current state we are in with COVID-19, but once again we were blown away!

This was by far our busiest year and still our best year for donations raised! We were talking with people that came from all over and who were so excited for this event. And that just warms my heart and makes everything we do so real and so special.

Every year we have grown, thankfully, and this year was just the same. We will be announcing our final donation amount at our It’s All About The Paws: Paint Your Pet ‘The After Party.”

[FOLLOW-UP: IAAtP raised $3,600 this year for their annual adoption event, making nearly $17,000 cumulatively in the six years of the event!]

What’s Next?

Leia was a proud pup when she won the prize bag!

Leia was a proud pup when she won the prize bag! (Picture Credit: Amanda)

AMANDA: What do you see for the future of IAAtP?

ERIKA: Continued growth in our communities. My dream is to help educate our communities on the importance of adoption; proper nutrition and health & wellness, as well as continuing to partner with local rescue organizations to help make a difference in the lives of the animals who are rescued and the families that find them.

Even more so, our Rehome Assistance Program can be a huge asset for our community. No animal rescuer wants to see a pet get surrendered or dumped, but it happens. It’s the world we live in, and this program has the potential to really help our community.

The more we grow, the more we raise, the more we will be able to grow with this program and assist those families — but most importantly, help in finding SAFE forever homes.

We hope that this program can help to make Chicago a no-kill city and keep dogs out of the animal control environment.

Side note: I am a certified pet nutrition specialist. I offer free (we do ask for donation to IAAtP) nutrition consultations for anyone needing help with their pets. I have had the pleasure of helping so many people with their pets’ health and it’s truly a dream come true to help them find solutions!

How Can You Get Involved?

AMANDA: If someone wanted to get involved and help IAAtP, what should they do?

ERIKA: Definitely reach out to us via email at [email protected] I absolutely love the ever-growing team of volunteers we have year after year! We are currently looking to add a grant writer, medical coordinator (to help with vetting records), and social media writer members to our team.

If a community member is interested in donating products to us, even if we can’t use them, we always find an organization that can!

AMANDA: It’s incredible to see a young person as the founder of such a successful, helpful organization. What advice would you give other young dreamers who want to help people or animals?

ERIKA: GO FOR IT!

I am truly flattered. In order to be successful, you have to believe in what you do.

I truly believe we can make a difference, and I believe that we can help to change hearts of people in order to decrease and raise awareness of the horror animals go through on a day-to-day basis.

I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the people in my life that have helped me get IAAtP what it is now. A huge part in my success is the team at IAAtP. We wouldn’t be here without them.

Take your time and be patient in finding your perfect team — although ours is every-growing — because you cannot get through it without a team of passionate, compassionate, kind-hearted people.

AMANDA: Thank you so much again, Erika, and good luck to you and IAAtP in your mission of helping animals!

To find out more about It’s All About the Paws, please visit their website here.

How have rescue events changed during the pandemic where you live? Are you inspired by the success of It’s All About the Paws? Let us know in the comments below!