Celebrating ORC Pets Blessing of the Animals
By Holly Houser, Ocean Reef Press Manager
The 2020 Census gave further proof to something already known about many Ocean Reef Members – they love their pets! Reporting 560 dogs at Ocean Reef, up from 387 in 2010, these lucky pups are treated as members of the family, spending many a day at the Dog Park and being chauffeured on golf carts.
The Reef loves to celebrate their pets and this is no better evidenced than the annual Blessing of the Animals. The history dates back to the 2011 inaugural Pets, Portraits & Pina Coladas, which eventually morphed into the familiar Blessing event. The story of how everyone’s favorite pet party transitioned to what it is today follows, as told by Teresa Holmes who was instrumental in making it happen:
“In 2013, I took Rochester to Pets, Portraits & Pina Coladas in the Fishing Village and it was fun; however my takeaway was that we could do even more with this idea. I was Chairing the Social Committee at the time and I began to think about how we might evolve the event for our two-legged and four-legged Members.
Sitting next to Bob and Stacy Schmetterer at a dinner and, knowing they were dog parents and with Stacy as the Chair of the Dog Park, I started the conversation. Bob suggested the Blessing of the Animals as he and Stacy had a wonderful experience some years earlier at a church in Manhattan. I loved the idea, having attended a similar event while living in Mexico.
I got in touch with Rich Miller, then Ocean Reef Chapel Chairman, and with the Chapel’s help, the support of the Club, the folks at the Dog Park, and the Social Committee, the first Blessing was scheduled for January 18, 2014. Which coincided with patron saint of animals, Saint Anthony Abbot, and his January Feast Day.
That first Blessing started with a ceremony at the Chapel, followed by a golf cart procession to the Fishing Village for a celebration. The next year, it was decided to hold the “after party” in the Chapel parking lot as well.
Rev. Dr. Bob Henley with Mary and Tucker Brady
And so began the collaboration and tradition between the Chapel and the Club to hold the annual Blessing. Chaplain in Residence Bob Henley has been involved since year two, offering the blessings to all pets and their owners. He has mentioned that on more than one occasion, he has seen Members moved to tears.”
Cooper Simms with Patti and Charlie
Since the Blessing’s inaugural year, attendance has more than doubled with 100 pets attending in 2020 – the most the Club has seen. Dogs are overwhelming in attendance but pets of all shapes and sizes receive blessings, including cats, birds, snakes, turtles, bunnies, even a goat. The event’s success has led to additional pet activities, such as the popular Yappy Hours.
Sherri Boston and Luna the Pomski
Mrs. Holmes’ opening remarks from the 2015 Blessing perfectly describe the essence of the tradition, “In thinking about the Ocean Reef Club promise – honoring family, tradition and a unique way of life – this Blessing of our cherished pets is truly a reflection of just that. We are honoring and celebrating the important role these animals play in our lives, and for many of us, they are a part of our family. The journey of life is sweeter when traveled with a pet.”
Held at The Field at Four Corners, this year’s event on Saturday, January 16 is modified to allow for social distancing. Members are required to sign up for one of three time slots – 10:15, 11 or 11:45 a.m. – and space is limited. Rev. Henley will bless each pet and their owners from a safe distance, and all humans are required to wear their masks. For reservations, call 305-367-6516.