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Pawject Runway pairs celebrities, homeless animals to benefit BARCS and Show Your Soft Side

Posted at 1:52 PM, May 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 17:30:38-04

Soccer is practically second nature to Baltimore Blast forward Tony Donatelli. He kicks, passes and scores goals with great ease.

What may not be quite as easy for this star athlete is walking a runway, with a dog and in front of a crowd of hundreds.

"I'm definitely excited. I've been practicing my walk for the runway," he said.

Donatelli is walking in this year's "Pawject Runway" fundraiser, which benefits both BARCS and the Show Your Soft Side campaign.

John Rallo, a former MMA fighter and owner of Ground Control, has been part of the fundraiser since it started five years ago.

"Even though we're the 'celebrities,' the animals are the stars of the show," said Rallo.

Rallo is also a "Softie" with the Show Your Soft Side campaign. It showcases athletes and other celebrities with animals to teach kids about being kind and respectful to animals. Their slogan is "Only a punk would hurt a cat or dog."

"For me, its kind of speaking for the animals that can't speak for themselves," Rallo said. "Its a cool campaign and its something I think gets kids involved with animals in a positive light instead of a negative one."

Rallo also has a close connection to BARCS. He's adopted three of his four cats from the shelter. Each year, BARCS takes in around 11,000 to 12,000 animals. The cost to run the shelter is around $9,000 a day, according to Jennifer Brause, the executive director.

This year BARCS hit a big milestone. Their save rate is now at 88 percent. Brause says at the inception of BARCS, when it was run by the city, the save rate was just two percent.

"We have an incredible staff that give their all, they give their hearts to be here," said Brause. "We're very understaffed so there is a lot of work to be done."

A higher save rate means more money to care for the thousands of animals who come to the shelter each year.

"It is much cheaper to euthanize animals than to provide care, but that's not our mission, that's not our mindset," said Brause. "We really had to turn that mindset around and build a program to save lives."

Pawject Runway is happening on Saturday May 6 from 6-10 p.m. at the Royal Farms Arena. Tickets are still available and include general admission as well as VIP tickets to the Softie lounge.