Pets, Parades and Prizes, Oh My!


Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst and Spring Road
Business Association gear up for the 31st annual Pet Parade

By Anna Hughes

The Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst has been serving the local community for 92 years. Their group is part of Kiwanis International, an organization dedicated to changing the world – one community and one child at a time. Kiwanis International has more than 600,000 members serving in more than 16,000 clubs in 93 countries. Elmhurst Kiwanis is dedicated to doing their part to bring positive impact to the local community and beyond.

Kiwanis treasurer Andrea Pokrefke said that 85% of fundraising and membership dues go right back into the Elmhurst community, yet many people are still unaware of the role they serve. By participating in local community events, they are bringing attention to their mission, all while having a lot of fun.

“I didn’t want this event to go away,
and nobody was stepping up. And if I
didn’t step up, it wouldn’t no longer be here.”

– Brenda Garcia, Pet Parade Co-Chair

They knew the perfect community event to sponsor: the Elmhurst Pet Parade. The parade, put on by both Kiwanis and the Spring Road Business Association, is a family-friendly, fan-favorite annual event for all ages.

The Pet Parade was started in 1988 by John DeVries, the former owner of DeVries Animal Hospital. Since then, it’s been a SRBA event, bringing out hundreds of pet owners and pet lovers for the occasion. After the pet influenza outbreak in 2015 and 2016, which caused the parade to be canceled, there was decreasing dedication and direction for the event. So, in late 2019, Brenda Garcia of the Elmhurst Independent stepped up to chair the parade.

“I didn’t want this event to go away,” Garcia said. “And nobody was stepping up. And if I didn’t step up, it wouldn’t no longer be here. I was a pet owner and I just couldn’t see this fun event not continue.”

Determined to revitalize the parade, she called up Pokrefke, who works at Elmhurst Bank, to join the team. They had it all planned out for 2020, but the cards were not in their favor that year.

They returned for 2022, and that’s when Garcia knew she needed a bigger team to help plan this event. Now, she co-chairs the event with Pokrefke and Amy Schiller of The Schiller Team real estate group. With this dedicated team of women, they’re able to think outside the box and bring the parade to a new level.

The SRBA frequently puts on events for the community because it’s great for business owners to go out and meet customers face to face. Many of the events they do are for families and kids, much like Kiwanis, but Garcia said this one is different.

“This one is special, because it involves pets, and for many of us who are pet owners, and may not have kids, it’s a great way to also come out and be a part of the community, even if you don’t have kids,” she said.

The parade has lots of fun, from special tricks to pet costumes to awards. Animals in attendance range from dogs and cats to birds, flying squirrels, lizards, and more. But it’s more than just fun; it’s also about bringing awareness.

There will be pet rescues at the event with animals on site ready for adoption. In addition, money from concessions will be donated to local rescues to carry out the mission of finding animals their forever homes.

“I don’t know of any other town that’s doing anything that is like this, but that is so well put together,” Pokrefke said. “And it’s something that the community really does look forward to every year.”

With so much support from local businesses, city officials including Mayor Scott Levin, York High School students, and other generous volunteers, they’re looking forward to a great event on May 18. ■

(From L to R): Brenda Garcia, The Elmhurst Independent, Amy Schiller, The Schiller Team of @Properties, and Andrea Pokrefke, Elmhurst Bank and Kiwanis Club of Elmhurst

Fetching Tails, one of the parade’s featured animal shelters, brings some of their dogs that are ready for adoption to Pet Parade for people to see.




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