Barry Switzer and wife help raise money for The Bella Foundation 

click to enlarge Cherokee Ballard walks her dogs in her neighborhood in Nichols Hills, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. - GARETT FISBECK
  • Garett Fisbeck
  • Cherokee Ballard walks her dogs in her neighborhood in Nichols Hills, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015.

When it comes to Oklahoma football, Barry Switzer is the reigning king. But he’s also a passionate advocate for animal rights and has lent his name to The Bella Foundation’s upcoming Barry, Bella & BBQ fundraiser. It is 5-9 p.m. Saturday at a private Stonemill Addition residence.

“We have been thinking of honoring Barry and Becky Switzer for a few years now because they are such animal lovers,” said Cherokee Ballard, Bella Foundation vice president. “We are very excited to have these Sooners and Oklahoma advocates work with us.”

The evening is a fun meet-and-greet with Switzer and his wife, Becky. It’s casual, Ballard said, and happens in the home of a foundation supporter.

“We will have Head Country BBQ as well as OU auction items, several of which were signed by Barry,” Ballard said. “Drinks are included, and guests can tour the house and grounds.”

The foundation is a not-for-profit organization that helps low-income, elderly or terminally ill pet owners with the cost of veterinary care when they cannot afford it.

“We have been very successful helping pet owners during difficult financial times,” Ballard said. “This event will help The Bella Foundation continue to help Oklahomans who may be faced with a grueling decision when a pet gets sick or needs surgery. The decision, many times, can be a matter of life or death if the pet owner doesn’t have the money for expensive medical procedures.”

Quite often, Ballard said The Bella Foundation hears from pet owners who are faced with the decision of having to put down their animal because they can’t afford treatment.

“That’s where we step in and when our guidelines are met, we assist with the medical bills,” she said. “We can’t imagine putting a family member down because there are no resources available. We partner with many local veterinarians who offer us discounted rates for the animals we are helping. This event will also help us with our adoption program.”

Over the past few years, the foundation has helped place more than 5,100 animals for adoption. It has found nearly 250 foster homes for displaced pets and spent more than $730,000 on veterinary care.

Switzer approved

Foundation president-elect Jeremy Busche adopted his first Bella dog about a year and a half ago. He and Ballard have been working together to make Barry, Bella & BBQ a reality.

“Large events like this take lots of work and many people coming together to make them happen,” he said. “But this is what keeps us going and enable us to continue saving the lives of animals in our community. As with most nonprofits, donations are down and requests for assistance are up these days.”

Ballard agreed and said the foundation is a lifeline for Oklahomans and their pets.

“We are all struggling to raise money,” she said. “We believe this event and others coming up, like our golf tournament, Keep Bella out of the Ruff, will allow us to continue our mission. We hope Gazette readers will consider coming to our event, meeting coach Switzer and his wife Becky and raising money for The Bella Foundation.”

Tickets are $100, available at thebellafoundation.org. The event address is provided when tickets are purchased.

In a prepared statement to Oklahoma Gazette, Switzer said he hopes events like this will bring awareness to the need for saving animals.

“There is a great need to support The Bella Foundation versus kill shelters,” Switzer said. “Our foundation, K9 ETC Foundation, is for ‘working dogs,’ but we love The Bella Foundation. The work they do for the lost ones is amazing. The metro has over 220 foster families that take in the lost ones and house them until a good home is found.

“There are many great rescues all doing great work, but this one is at the top of my list. The work The Bella Foundation does on behalf of animals is to be applauded and supported.”

Print headline: Cherished charity, The Bella Foundation and Barry Switzer team up to raise money for pets in need.

Editor's note: This story was updated April 20, 2016, to reflect a venue change by the organizers.

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