COLUMBIA — A wish became reality for the Central Missouri Humane Society on Sunday night, when USA Today announced that the shelter won an up to $1 million makeover from pet-lover Web site Zootoo.com.
The Humane Society held a news conference Monday morning. Many hugs and "thank yous" were exchanged. Patty Forister, the Humane Society's executive director, gave details about upcoming steps the shelter is taking to ensure good communication among the shelter, Zootoo and the Columbia community.
The Humane Society has already formed a project committee to take charge of the makeover that society board member Bobb Swanson will head. Forister also announced a town hall meeting to be held at 6 p.m. on May 12. The location is still to be determined.
“We want to thank our community for supporting us, especially Amanda Huhman and Libby Burks,” said Maria Furey, president of the society's board of directors. Amanda and Libby are two 13-year-old Columbia Catholic students who found the Zootoo competition and got the word out.
The two girls shared their excitement at the press conference.
“When I first found out, I was running around the house dancing around. I was dancing with my dog,” Amanda said. “I always thought it could happen but it was never really real until we were in first place.”
Libby said she didn't believe it at first. "When I found out, my mom said she saw it in an e-mail and I was like, 'No that can’t be right.' So she had to check again and show it to me,” Libby said. “I was so excited.”
Forister also announced the formation of Operation Zootoo, a campaign to get the community involved. “This is a two-part challenge to make over our shelter and to establish operational support from the community,” Forister said. Operation Zootoo is still being organized and more information will be available soon.
Last year's winner, Stray Rescue of St. Louis, recently reached a settlement with Zootoo after misunderstandings about the million-dollar prize.
Forister said she wants the community to understand the humane society is not receiving a million-dollar check. The prize is for up to $1 million in goods, services and cash.
“We still need fundraising. We still need community support. We won’t be able to do this project without it,” Forister said.
“This is kind of a dream come true for us," Furey said. "It’s definitely setting us on a path this year that we didn’t expect taking, but in 2010 I think what you’re going to see is a new Humane Society that’s going to serve our community better."