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Orphans of the Storm, Walking on the Wooded Side


Orphans of the Storm (OOTS), announces the grand opening of the new Orphans of the Storm Woodland Preserve on Friday, Oct. 2. The 7.5-acre wooded preserve transforms a previously uncultivated area on the OOTS grounds into a tranquil woodland with circuitous paths where dogs can exercise, bond with potential new owners, all while getting a peaceful break from the bustling environment of the shelter. The grand opening of the Preserve helps to kick off National Adopt a Dog Month this October.

The space will be dedicated to the memory of former shelter president Thelma S. Zwirner, acknowledging her 25-years of dedicated work to help OOTS’s stray and abandoned charges.

Grand Opening festivities begin at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 2  with an official ribbon cutting, followed by a dog parade as the shelter’s dogs get to experience the preserve first-hand (or, more accurately, first-paw.)

“This space is a dream come true for our animals, and for our staff and volunteers,” says Gail Donahue, shelter administrator. “Our location had 7.5 acres of land and there was no better way to use the land than creating a remarkable solace for our lovable and friendly dogs. It is also an ideal space for prospective adopters to get to know their dog in a relaxed environment and where they can experience the animal’s genuine personality.”

Rick Zwirner, OOTS volunteer president says, “My mother would be tremendously honored to have this sanctuary dedicated in her honor. Her lifelong dedication to bettering the lives of neglected animals has been an inspiration to me as we continue to grow and improve our shelter every day.  We are proud that OOTS continues to expand as we move forward in our goal to find homes for every adoptable animal that comes to our shelter.”

The $65,000 project transformed an unkempt environment into a natural and calming solace for animals.  The project began late spring, led by manager, Tom Brackney, who cleared unwanted trees and plants to create the beautiful, circuitous, eight-foot-wide path through the wooded environment. More than 100 dead trees throughout the 7.5 acres were razed and the wood was then mulched into woodchips for the path. Workers also removed a tremendous quantity of buckthorn, an invasive plant that threatens the growth of native plant life. Arborvitaes were planted across the back of the property to block the view of neighboring properties, and the entire property was encircled with a protective fence. Next spring, tall prairie grasses will sprout alongside the path to add to the space’s natural beauty.

The preserve honors Thelma Zwirner, a life-long dog-lover who led Orphans of the Storm starting in 1969. A strong leader and dedicated visionary for the welfare of the animals entrusted to OOTS’ care, Mrs.  Zwirner oversaw the expansion of the shelter from maintaining 46 dogs indoors to caring for 190 dogs with indoor and outdoor combined runs. By the time of her death in 1994, Orphans of the Storm had become one of the largest animal shelters in the country, built on the vision that no needy animal would ever be turned away.

Orphans of the Storm, a longstanding animal shelter in Chicago’s northern suburbs, helps to find a home for every cat and dog that reaches its doors. Originally a country refuge, conveniently located west of the Tri-State Toll Way just north of Deerfield Road, Orphans of the Storm has provided exceptional shelter, nutrition and medical care for orphaned, abandoned, abused or neglected cats and dogs since 1928.  Over the course of the shelter’s almost 90-year history, more than 120,000 pets have found new homes as loving and beloved additions to families.

Orphans of the Storm is at 2200 Riverwoods Road, Riverwoods.  Animals may be adopted at any time; no appointment is necessary. Orphans of the Storm is a not-for-profit, non-government subsidized, section 501(c)(3) organization.

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