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Pet lovers unite Sept. 18 at Gyro Park

If you're often out and about in Penticton, there's a pretty decent chance you know, know of, or at the very least recognize a young woman named Kona Sankey.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Kona Sankey and her cat Pickle

She's on the board of directors of the Penticton Art Gallery and can be found at virtually all of their events. She was a long-time volunteer/organizer with the Nanaimo Square-based feed-the-homeless program Monday Night Dinners.

She's on the board and is the VP of Incredible Edible Penticton, she's a volunteer with the Penticton Arts Council, and she works and volunteers with markets and events, both indoor and outdoor, across the city, all year long.

If there's a living, breathing symbol for community involvement, Sankey is it.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Sankey at a Penticton Art Gallery event

Her journey is even more compelling when you consider her own life has been such a tough go. Now 35 years old, she struggled with serious stuff like depression and suicidal thoughts from a young age and was diagnosed with scoliosis when she was a teen and autism as an adult.

"I grew up rough and was out on my own as a teen," Sankey said, adding that she's experienced homelessness as well before coming to Penticton 16 years ago.

Like we said, a tough go. Yet she keeps on trucking.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Sankey at a 2019 Nanaimo Square sit-in

In April of this year, her community involvement jumped another notch when she founded "Pet-Friendly Penticton," a social media-based concept that "encourages and promotes pet-friendly locations, activities, and causes in Penticton, BC."

The Pet-Friendly Penticton Facebook page, complete with its accompanying map of the local businesses and places that accept and often encourage pets, has done pretty well in the months that followed, and is now closing in on 500 likes and 500 followers.

But founding the organization was just the start. Now Sankey is saying thanks and honouring all those who've joined and liked and signed up for Pet-Friendly Penticton with a pet-friendly celebration in Gyro Park.

It's called "Pets in the Park," and it unfolds in all its furry/feathery/scaly glory Sunday, Sept. 18th.

<who>Photo Credit: Pet-Friendly Penticton</who>

She'd like it to be the beginning of an annual tradition.

"It's my way to say thank you to the community, who's come out in droves to say, 'Hey, we love pets too,'" said Sankey of the event.

Sankey credited her cat's new weight-loss program for the genesis of Pet-Friendly Penticton.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Sankey with husband JT and cat Pickle

"Oscar is on a weight loss journey," she said of her formerly flabby feline. "He started out at over 34 lbs, and we need to get him down closer to 14. Part of that was getting him out. But we realized we still had errands to run beyond walking the cat.

"So we checked with certain stores where we'd seen animals before and made sure we were okay to go in there with our animals."

Sankey kept track. Then, with the assistance of her family (hubby JT, daughter Lilith, and cats Oscar and Pickle), she went beyond stores to specialty vets, dog parks and the like. And she detailed all of it via Google Maps.

"We now have over 40 locations," she said, "as far south as Skaha beach and all the way out to Naramata."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who>

For Pets in the Park, Sankey nabbed herself a grant from the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen and the City of Penticton. And then she set out to spread the word and secure exhibitors. She's confirmed more than a dozen so far and promises lots of cool stuff for pet owners -- and their crowd-tolerant pets -- to see and do.

There'll be a pet portrait artist, a dog chiropractor, and -- believe it or not -- a horse massager. The Coles Books people will be there for pet story-time sessions. Okanagan K9 Smiles will examine doggie teeth. And Catabitat Contracting and Construction will show off its cat habitats.

Attendees will get to watch dog agility performances and animal health care demonstrations, and partake in a goat petting zoo. There'll be door prizes, games and interactive exhibits, snacks for humans and their pets, a silent auction, and more.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia</who> Sankey promises no T Rexes at the event

"I timed it to miss the heat of the summer," said Sankey. "I wanted it to be comfortable for both pets and people."

The first-ever Pets in the Park runs Sept. 18th, from 10 am to 1 pm, at Gyro Park. For more information, head to the Pet-Friendly Penticton Facebook page here and scroll down.



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