When Joanie Schisler and Margi Dorger arrived at the dedication of the Love to the Rescue wall in downtown Aiken on Thursday, they attracted a lot of attention.
The Windsor residents were accompanied by a Percheron/Haflinger cross pony named Smarty and a Cairn Terrier named Dolly.
Many in the crowd were eager to meet Smarty before the program started outside Osbon’s Laundry & Cleaners on Pendleton Street, and Dolly made some new friends too.
“You can ride it and you can ride it,” said Schisler of Smarty. “He does weddings, he herds cattle and he hunts foxes. He is very agreeable.
Paintings of Smarty and Dolly are among the rescue wall portraits, the brainchild of Betty Ryberg, a community activist, activist and organizer who wanted to raise money for Friends of Animal Shelter, or FOTAS.
A donation of $200 was required to secure space for each painting of a rescued animal on the wall.
Local artists, many of whom were high school students from Aiken County, created the portraits.
After seeing a photo of young artists painting a wall in a newspaper about a year ago, Ryberg contacted Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon, owner of Osbon’s Laundry & Cleaners, which has another location on Silver Bluff Road. .
“I said, ‘You have a wall (on Pendleton Street), and we need another mural downtown,’ and he immediately said yes,” Ryberg recalled.
She also made contact with Aiken County Public School District Superintendent King Laurence. He thought the Rescue Wall was a good idea and agreed to allow students from every high school in the county to participate.
Additionally, students from the Aiken Scholars Academy, which involves a partnership between the school district and USC Aiken, and the Art Nook School & Studio did some of the paintings.
“Sometimes teenagers get overlooked, and so do rescue animals,” Ryberg said. “Both are sometimes shy and they can also be loud. It was a great way for the teens to see that they can use their talents for community service. »
Schisler and Dorger were pleased with the portraits of Smarty and Dolly.
“They’re very nice,” Dorger said.
Schisler added: “They are great. I had no idea how good they were going to be. Wow.”
Schisler and Dorger acquired Smarty from a friend, who bought the pony at an auction where it could have been sold for slaughter.
Before Schisler and Dorger owned Dolly, “she was a breeding mother for five years in a cage at a puppy mill in North Carolina,” Schisler said.
The portrait of Dewey, a West Highland White Terrier that Schisler and Dorger rescued, is also part of the Love to the Rescue wall.
“He died last year,” Dorger said of the dog.
Among the portrait painters in attendance was Katt Westbrook, a Graniteville resident who graduated from Midland Valley High School earlier this year.
Her artwork featured a dog named Cinder, “who looks like my dog,” Westbrook said. “I have a black Labrador named Ray.
“We were shown pictures of the animals and had to choose,” she continued. “It was fun, but it was also difficult. I’m not really used to painting animals, but I liked the experience it gave me. I’m trying to get better at drawing.
During the dedication, Ryberg, Aiken County Council Chairman, Gary Bunker, Laurence and others spoke as an excited dog barked loudly in the background.
SC Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, presented a state senate document that recognized the Love to the Rescue wall and “everyone who worked to make it a reality,” he said. declared.
Kay Biermann Brohl, a member of the Aiken City Council who represented Osbon at the dedication, presented a proclamation.
So far, the Rescue Wall has raised over $10,000 for FOTAS.
There is still room for additional portraits. For more information, call Ryberg at 803-270-6403 or email [email protected]
FOTAS is a voluntary organization founded in 2009 to supplement the resources of the Aiken County Animal Shelter.
“It’s an incredible amount of work, and we love the whole concept,” FOTAS president Jennifer Miller said of the rescue wall. “It’s also a celebration of rescued animals. We have so many wonderful animals that need forever homes. That’s why we do what we do. People support this and donate to help our life-saving programs are wonderful.I cannot thank Betty Ryberg and her dedicated friends enough.
At the dedication, Bunker said the rescue wall commemorates “the progress we’ve made in Aiken County in 12 short years.”
In the past, “90% of the animals that entered the animal shelter never left,” he added. “Today, more than 90% of the animals that enter the shelter find a home.”