SOLA, Siouxland Off Leash Association, is an all volunteer, 501(C)(3) organization that was started in January of 2002. Betsy McTaggart, Judy Thompson, Sandy Valenti, and Terry Hey had off-leash experiences in California, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin respectively and wanted to start a dog park in Sioux City. The Sioux City Parks and Recreation Department said they would help locate park space if we could raise the money for the fence. The Sioux City PETCO store let Betsy put out petitions to demonstrate interest. Ryan Ross, a local attorney, volunteered his service to set SOLA up as tax-exempt corporation. In May of that year, Iams donated 330 boxes of Eukanuba biscuits and Palmer Candy Company donated almond bark. The biscuits were dipped in the almond bark and wrapped in bandanas and sold for $5.00 each - the fundraising was started. Several SOLA volunteers including Bethany, Shannon, and Beth dipped and wrapped the biscuits. Later that summer, the See Spot Run t-shirts were added to the fundraising efforts.
To raise additional money, SOLA members took photos of dogs with Santa at PETCO. Jenny Baylie and Dale Valenti took turns playing Santa, while Betsy took the photos and Sara Holden printed out the pictures. Sandy and Judy were Santa's helpers. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work getting pups to pose with a bearded stranger.
In May of 2003, SOLA held the inaugural Dog Jog which has become the group's major fundraiser. Dog owners walk (or jog) with their dogs about the lake at Bacon Creek Park. In each of the years (2003, 2004, and 2005) it has been held, Jean Ashmore of Modern Woodmen of America matched the group's fundraising efforts up to $2,500. To date, Modern Woodmen has donated $7,500 to the project. Chris Rich of Absolute Screen Art designs the t-shirts each year and donates the bandanas for the dogs.
A new fundraising event was added in September of 2004. Sioux City's Parks and Recreation Department sponsored a Pooch Paddle at Riverside Aquatic Center. Dogs could swim in the pool after the Center had closed for the year. Free-will donations to SOLA were made by the participants. There are two Pooch Paddles scheduled for 2005.
After receiving a $10,000 grant from the Missouri River Historical Development organization in the spring of 2004, enough money had been raised to pay for the fence. The fence went up in October and the park unofficially opened in November of 2004. The Grand Opening of the Lewis and Clark Dog Park was held on May 14, 2005. Festivities included a march of Newfoundland dogs in honor of Lewis and Clark's dog, Seaman, and a leash cutting at the park gate. Chris Rich designed the park logo and Signs by Tomorrow donated the Welcome sign.
Major partners include Missouri River Historical Development, Modern Woodmen of America, PETCO and the PETCO Foundation, and the City of Sioux City. Other grants and donations have been received from the Iams Company, Chesterman Bottling, John Morrell, Avery Brothers, and Cargill.
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