2023 Rilee Beisler Humane-i-Tarian Awards


    When a young girl named Rilee Michelle Beisler lost her life at attempting to save her two dogs from a house fire in May 2021, the Sarasota community mourned this tragedy. HSSC started to receive gifts in her memory from kindhearted donors. Many of them did not even know Rilee, but they were so touched by her bravery and how her last thoughts were of her beloved pups. Rilee's story touched us deeply, too. So much so that we decided we wanted to create a lasting tribute to her. We connected with her grandparents, Pete and Karen Beisler. With their blessing, we created the Rilee Beisler Humane-i-Tarian Awards with the goal of recognizing children who demonstrate extraordinary compassion and love for animals--just as Rilee did. Our first Rilee award ceremony was held in September 2021, and Lucy Thomas was the first winner.

    This year, we decided to expand our awards to encompass not just children, but teachers, community members, and businesses. We dovetailed the nomination period with May's Be Kind to Animals Month. The winners were voted on by the Beislers, along with HSSC Board Members and leaders. All the winners and nominees were honored at a reception on Sunday, June 25, 2023, at HSSC.

    The 2023 Be Kind to Animals Award series was sponsored by HSSC, SouthState Bank and a kind donor who wishes to remain anonymous. Additional prize sponsors include Sun Outdoors Sarasota and Sarasota Jungle Gardens.

    2023 Winners & Honorees

    Rilee Beisler Humane-i-Tarian Award

    Awarded to a child in Sarasota County who exemplifies compassion, love, and respect for animals in memory of Rilee Michelle Beisler.

    Winners: Abby Williams, Van Vangor

    Honorees: Ashlyn Tarro, Lyla McKenney, Ellis Howell, Sofia Bruns

    Winner Abby Williams with HSSC Board Member Jenn Poppen, HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce, and HSSC Events & Corporate Giving Manager Jaime Limoges 

    Abby's Nomination:

    Abby attended HSSCs Fur Fun Summer Camp for many years. During that time she met a chinchilla and fell in love with him. She decided that she really wanted a chinchilla, so she spent an entire year trying to convince her parents. She researched everything about Chinchillas and even did a presentation for her parents. She finally obtained permission, so she went on a mission to rescue a chinchilla and when she was unable to find one she went to a responsible breeder. This young lady is a very responsible, compassionate, kind pet owner. Her chinchilla, Buddy, stays in her room. Abby takes great care of him and cleans up after him every day. She has even looked into colleges that will allow her to have her Chinchilla on campus. 

    Now that Abby is over the age for the kid's camp she brings Buddy to camp every week to educate the kids about chinchillas. Abby knows everything there is to know about chinchillas, and she gives an excellent presentation. Since Abby is in between ages for the kids and teen camps, she asked how she could be more involved with the Humane Society. Not only does Abby bring Buddy to all of the camps, she also assists the teacher. She is very self-motivated and helps in any way she can which includes animal care with all types of animals. Not only does Abby love chinchillas, she loves all animals and will do everything needed to provide care for them.

    Winner Van Vangor with HSSC Board Member Jenn Poppen, HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce, and HSSC Events Manager Jaime Limoges 

    Van's Nomination: 

    As a Boy Scout, for his Eagle Scout badge, in 2021, Van compiled a business plan to obtain donated cat and kitten food for hundreds of felines in our community. He organized and managed several dozen tabletops at local pet stores asking for donations. He raised 2,000 lb. of cat food to feed hundreds of animals, exceeding his goal of 1,000 lb. by another thousand pounds. He saved many animal lives with this project. The food was distributed via Venice Cat Coalition to many families and small groups that do not have access to donations.

    Humane Education Award

    Awarded to a Sarasota County teacher or educational professional who encourages compassionate care for animals and promotes responsible pet ownership in our community.

    Winner: Delvecchio Walls

    Honorees: Karie Scaz, Samantha Gentrup

    Honoree Katie Scaz with HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce and HSSC Board Member Jenn Poppen
    Honoree Samantha Gentrup with HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce and HSSC Board Member Jenn Poppen

    Delvecchio Walls's Nomination:

    It is my pleasure to nominate Mr. Delvecchio Walls for the Humane Education Award. Since the start of the school year, Mr. Walls has coordinated, transported, and nurtured Booker High School students enrolled in a work-study program that allows students to gain hands-on experience in different companies throughout Sarasota County. Mr. Walls was made aware of several of his students' passion for animals and immediately worked with HSSC to set up weekly shifts. Mr. Walls gives his students the room to grow, learn, and explore what it's like to work in a shelter and does so with his trademark smile and positive attitude! It is no wonder why all of his students are enthusiastic to be in his classroom because he sees each student as an individual and always pushes them to be their best selves. 

    HSSC Founder's Award

    Awarded to an individual who promotes animal welfare in Sarasota County, cares for and finds homes for animals, encourages kindness, and pursues humane objectives.

    Winner: Caroline Resnick

    Honorees: Kimberly Tocci, Jennifer Hummel, Kristin Little

    Winner Caroline Resnick with HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce and HSSC Board Member Jenn Poppen
    Honoree Kimberly Tocci with HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce

    Caroline Resnick's Nomination:

    Caroline Resnick has worked tirelessly for more than two decades in Sarasota County to spay and neuter many hundreds of cats and kittens, greatly alleviating suffering in several areas. She is a founder of Feline Friends SWFL and previously was instrumental in founding the spay-neuter programs at Animal Rescue Coalition, Buddy's Feral Cat Program, and Cat Depot. She not only does hands-on Trap, Neuter, Return programs, but fundraises and provides intensive medical care for injured cats. She has devoted a large part of her life to helping animals and deserves recognition.

    Helping Heroes Public Service Award

    Awarded to an individual or organization that has demostrated heroic measures or stewardship to save the life of an animal or animals.

    Winner: Nikki Goslin

    Honoree: Justin Matthews

    Winner Nikki Goslin with HSSC Board Member Jenn Poppen, HSSC Events & Corporate Giving Manager Jaime Limoges, and HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce 

    Nikki's Nomination:

    Nikki is a disabled Navy and Marine Corpsman veteran who has raised enough money for 300 veterans to receive free pet adopts. She also volunteers at the Humane Society of Sarasota County, and she gets everyone involved at her office too.

    She does so much with pets for vets and other outreach services, and is just an amazing advocate.

    HSSC Pet Advocate Award

    Awarded to an individual who demonstrated outstanding service in the life of an animal in HSSC's care.

    Winner: Lori Schook

    Honorees: Donna Bennett, Jenny Hamner, Natalie Tilton, Hope McCampbell-Wenk

    Winner Lori Schook with HSSC Board Member Jenn Poppen and HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce
    Honoree Jenny Hamner with HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce and Board Member Jenn Poppen

    Lori's Nomination: 

    Lori is one of the MOST dedicated volunteers we have. She will make sure every single dog has been walked before she leaves. Rain or shine, hurricane or heat wave, she will be there to make sure our shelter dogs are taken care of. She advocates for our animals online. She never misses a social media post and tunes in for the Facebook live EVERY Tuesday with Company Critter. She loves our animals and she loves our mission.

    Honoree Natalie Tilton with HSSC Executive Director Anna Gonce and HSSC Board Member Jenn Poppen

    Humane in Action Award

    Awarded to an HSSC partner business or organization that puts their love into action through advocacy, resources, treasure, or talent to save animals in Sarasota County and beyond.

    Winner: Bayside Pet Resort

    Honorees: Bates-Buchanan & Savitsky Law Group, Wut's Up Pup Grooming

    Honoree Nick of Wut's Up Pup Grooming with HSSC Executive Director of HSSC Board Member Jenn Poppen

    Bayside Pet Resort's Nomination:

    Bayside Pet Resort has shown time and time again their commitment to helping animals in our area. They are a long-time supporter of HSSC, having done everything from sponsor events to offer free services to adopters to hosting adoptable animals and getting them adopted from their fabulous facilities. And it's not just HSSC they support. You'd be hard-pressed to find a local animal organization that Bayside has not supported over the years. Owners Bob and Lynne Huff and the wonderful team members at their multiple locations are absolutely committed to providing exceptional care at their facilities and paying their success forward to help animals still waiting for their loving homes. Bayside really is the "pet resort with a heart."

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