What would you say if someone told you that you could do a hobby you love, and benefit a charity at the same time? It’s not too good to be true. A month ago, August 30, a group of 137 ladies (and a few gentleman) did just that. They filled three rooms to full capacity to play the Chinese tile game Mah Jongg.

Sure, many of these ladies play weekly or more often with friends and neighbors, but this day was different. This day, they played the game to support a cause.

The exciting gathering was the third annual “Mah Jongg for Mutts,” a fundraiser organized by Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) volunteer Candy McLeod. If the saying “Charity benefits the giver more than the receiver” is true, then Candy must be richest of us all. Candy’s passion for helping homeless pets lead her to volunteering for the YHS Thrift Store in January of 2015, and within months she had a vision to turn one of her hobbies into a benefit for the animals at the shelter. That summer she put on the first Mah Jongg for Mutts.

The 2015 event was a smashing success. With her fiery spirit, infectious energy, and unstoppable passion for the cause of animal welfare, she single-handedly recruited 64 Mah Jongg players to come together and raise $1,200 for YHS.

After the event Candy received wonderful feedback from friends who promised to play again so she graciously hosted the second annual Mah Jongg for Mutts at Talking Rock Ranch in 2016. This time she managed to recruite almost twice as many players and the 112 ladies raised just over $3,200 to help our communities homeless animals.

On the event of the the third annual Mah Jongg for Mutts,Candy hoped this year the support from the community would increase by at least 50%. It seemed that could be the reality when the special day arrived and 137 Mah Jongg players were registered for the event.

Players arrived around noon to check in and eat a beautiful lunch prepared by Talking Rock Ranch, who generously donated their clubhouse space for the event. Participants picked up their name tags – those who played in 2015 and 2016 were proud to show off the three paws stamped on their name tag (one paw for each year) and exclaimed that next year they would have four paws on their name tag.

Volunteers sold tickets for wonderful raffle prizes, including a barbeque package, spa facial sessions, a beautiful bouquet of flowers, and theater tickets. The grand prize was 50% of the raffle proceeds. By the time the winning tickets were drawn the pot had reached $925—an exciting prize for the lucky winner who donated $500 of her winnings back to YHS.

The proceeds of all the donations, raffle ticket sales, and the $10 entry fees were tallied as the Mah Jongg players got their game on. The final total was an incredible $6,346! Far more than what was expected. Candy was overcome with emotion and friends celebrated with her, sharing joyful tears knowing they were helping even more pets in need. It goes without saying that next year’s Mah Jongg for Mutts, will be held on August 29, 2018 (register by emailing yhsgames@gmail.com), is highly anticipated.

Candy said she was motivated to put on the event because “Prescott is an active community. When it comes to supporting a cause, we want to participate, not just attend a fundraising event. The Mah Jongg for Mutts tournament gets people excited because they get to play a game while raising money for homeless pets. So this type of FUN-draising it is a win/win”.

If Mah Jongg isn’t your thing, but helping the animal shelter with a hobby you already enjoy sounds like fun (or perhaps you enjoy event planning), you can get involved! YHS is following the success of Mah Jongg for Mutts by organizing a series of game tournament fundraisers called “Games that Give.” Earlier this year the series had a “Cribbage for Critters” fundraiser and there are plans for “Poker for Ponies” and “Bridge the Gap between Dogs and Cats” in 2018. If you are a gaming guru with a passion for pets consider hosting your own “Games that Give”. Contact YHS at 928-445-2666 or email info@yavapaihumane.org.

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