This year, they’re taking a walk — or a run — on the milder side.
Because of the pandemic conditions, the usual hustle and social interaction of the annual Paws & Claws 5K Run/Walk to benefit Baypath Humane Society of Hopkinton will be replaced with a virtual event on the weekend of Oct. 17-18.
Rather than walking or running in one set location at a specific time, participants can walk or run a 5K on a course of their choice any time on those two days.
This will be the first fundraiser for the shelter since its other annual major events — Fur Ball and Fore Paws Golf Tournament — were canceled due to the pandemic.
“In a year when our fundraising has been hurt, we figured we’d better do something,” even if it looks a little different, said Elizabeth Jefferis, Baypath’s executive director.
The cancellation of the two fundraisers hit the shelter hard financially, Jefferis said.
Adoptions have been popular during a time when people are often housebound and in need of companionship.
But the adoption fee for an animal doesn’t usually cover the cost to care for an animal once it arrives at the shelter, particularly when there are medical expenses related to the animal’s care.
The organization accepts that, because finding loving homes matters more than worrying about finances, Jefferis said.
But the fundraisers play a critical role in keeping the shelter afloat. That makes this fundraiser crucial. “We really need it,” Jefferis said.
The shelter also is keeping a watch on possible upticks in surrendered animals when moratoriums on evictions ease. When that happens, people may be forced to move and be in situations where they can’t keep their pets.
“We’ve got our eye on that,” Jefferis said. “We’ve got to be ready to respond.”
She hopes people will warm to the new fundraiser idea. Dog walking has become perhaps more popular than ever, as people are home with their pets and have more time to spend with them.
So, combining that walk with a way to help the shelter seemed like a natural fit.
“They already have their routines,” she said. “So they can do it at their own pace.”
Organizers recommend that participants plan their course ahead of time by using a site such as MapMyRun.com or onthegomap.com.
When registering, participants can choose to join an existing team, create their own, or register as an individual participant. Online registration ends at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 16.
The weekend will include a virtual “pup rally” to kick off the race weekend on Oct. 16. A Paws & Claws 5K Facebook community has been created to connect with runners and share race times, pictures and other aspects of the experience.
And no road race would be complete without an award ceremony. In this case, the virtual awards ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. on Oct. 18 to honor the top finishers.
All times must be submitted online by noon Oct. 18. Details will be posted on the event Facebook page.
In addition to the changes in fundraisers, the impact of the pandemic has caused plans for a new facility to be placed “on hold for now,” Jefferis said.
Earlier this year, the Select Board agreed to lease town land at 66 Fruit St. to the society, which plans to build a structure that is nearly four times larger than its current location at 500 Legacy Farms North.
The society hopes to build a new, expanded facility on the property to provide more space for both people and animals.
For now, though, “We’re trying to make the most” of the current circumstances, Jefferis said. “Isn’t that what we’ve all been doing?”