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Long Island-Based Portraits Program Shines A Spotlight On Local Shelter Animals

Nicole Barylski

Bonnie painted a portrait of Ricky, who's awaiting adoption at Babylon Animal Shelter, during an "Adopt Me" event at Sayville Library. (Courtesy Photo)

The next stop on Theresa Maritato's traveling "animal lovers club" is Westhampton Care Center, where on May 14 up to 20 residents will have the opportunity to paint a portrait of a Bideawee resident that is waiting to find its forever home during Maritato's Adopt Me.

"My goal is to connect community members, ranging from children to seniors, with their local animal shelter," Maritato explained. "We accomplish this goal through arts, crafts and special projects."

During the portraits program, participants will select an animal that's awaiting adoption at Bideawee, a leading pet welfare organization serving metropolitan New York and Long Island - which has a location in Westhampton - and capture its quirkiness. The completed masterpieces will be brought to Bideawee and hung on the subject's kennel. Once adopted, the animal's new owners even get to keep the commissioned artwork.

"I'm hosting an Adopt Me portraits program at Westhampton Care Center as a way to enrich the lives of nursing home patients through art, while giving back to the community," Maritato noted.

The Westhampton Care Center loved the idea so much that they created a week's worth of themed programming, Must Love Dogs, which centers on animals.

"We just thought it was great because we're out here, we have pet therapy, a lot of families bring in their pets, the staff want to get an in house dog," Linda Shepfer of Westhampton Care Center noted. "We're major dog lovers and just hearing about how great the painting program was and that maybe our residents could paint a portrait, with a little bio, and that could be given to whoever adopts the dog, we thought that was the most charming thing. We came up with other programs for the rest of the week, but that program itself was the whole reason we based our week on dogs."

Shepfer says there's many benefits for those who participate in the painting party - like sharing fond memories and reminiscing about when they had an animal. "The painting is very relaxing and therapeutic for those that are anxious, restless because the stroke of the paintbrush and the direction and calmness of a quiet program relaxes them," Shepfer said. "If any of them were painters, it's not just painting a picture; they're painting with a purpose. I think it's a win, win for everybody. Some, who may not be able to participate due to physical or cognitive decline, we may bring into the program just to observe and be in that familiar setting of when they used to like to do that."

And not only does the program offer the community a creative outlet, it also raises awareness for pets in need. After an event at the Sayville Library in April, one of the featured dogs from Babylon Animal Shelter finally got that happy ending and found its new family.

"We're thrilled to be a part of Theresa Maritato's Adopt Me portraits program at the Westhampton Care Center," noted Bideawee President & CEO, Leslie Granger. "Seniors make wonderful pet parents and we are consistently in awe of the many ways that the senior community comes together to support dogs and cats in need. These portraits will help highlight some of our long-stay animals and we're so grateful to the residents of the Westhampton Care Center for their efforts to bring our animals one step closer to finding loving, forever homes."

This particular Adopt Me is open to Westhampton Care Center, but to learn when other sessions are happening, visit www.theresasprograms.com.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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