Dog playground dedicated at Paw Palace campus

Dawn Brancheau Foundation raises money to help dogs at 4 Paw Sake Rescue

by Melanie Jongsma

LYNWOOD, Ill. (May 21, 2019) – At the end of a small road that looks like an alley, a large house sits on a spacious lawn overlooking a small lake. The 22-acre campus is the site of Paw Palace—a dog boarding, training, and grooming center—and 4 Paw Sake Rescue, a nonprofit that was added in response to local needs.

Paw Palace path
The Paw Palace campus is located off of Glenwood-Dyer Road. The alley-like path is clearly marked by Paw signs. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Paw Palace
The 22-acre campus provides plenty of space for dogs to enjoy the outdoors. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

On a warm Saturday morning, May 18, about a dozen dog lovers have gathered around a fenced play area that is “sodded” with artificial turf and dotted with amenities—a shade gazebo, a wishing well, some agility equipment, and a fire hydrant water fountain. The dog lovers are busy planting flowers around the perimeter of the playground, a final touch that adds color and a home-like feeling.

Paw Palace play area
The play area is covered with artificial turf that was bought from craigslist. The nonprofit got a good deal because the used turf was once a football field. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Helping dogs get adopted

4 Paw Sake Rescue knows that rescued dogs are much more likely to be adopted if they have an opportunity to overcome their fears and to socialize with other dogs and people. Many of their dogs are strays that were found or brought in, and some are dogs who were surrendered by their previous owners for a variety of reasons—a death in the family, relocation, insufficient funds, or other reasons.

Staff and volunteers at 4 Paw Sake walk and/or play with each rescue dog 2–4 times per day until the dog is adopted. The newly dedicated playground provides a controlled setting where dogs can get the physical and social exercise they need.

The rescued dogs are housed in a large barn, and they are crated while their pens are cleaned. Though the living quarters are roomy and sanitary, the dogs still appreciate their frequent walks around the lake or frolics in the playground. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Homer (left), a 9-year-old pit bull mix, socializes with the dog statue inside the play area. Homer is described as a sweet senior dog who needs a quiet home with no children. “He’s good on a leash and has a special place in the heart of several volunteers here,” says the website. Click the image to review the adoption application. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Helping 4 Paw Sake Rescue

The Dawn Brancheau Foundation has made it their mission to improve life for children and animals in need, so the playground at 4 Paw Sake Rescue was a natural fit. The foundation was established by the family of Dawn Brancheau, who grew up in Cedar Lake, Indiana, and decided as a child on a family vacation at SeaWorld to become an animal trainer. Her sister, Diane Gross, says she dared to “Dream Big,” so the foundation’s logo is designed to highlight her initials as well as inspire others to Dream Big.

Brancheau earned degrees in animal behavior and psychology, and she eventually earned a place on staff with Sea World Orlando. Over more than a decade as one of SeaWorld’s best known orca trainers, she revamped the program and inspired audiences to love and respect marine life. Her tragic death in 2010 led to national conversation about animal behavior. In her memory, Dawn Brancheau’s family decided to “continue Dawn’s legacy of helping others, animals, and the environment.” Each April they organize a Dream Big 5K at SeaWorld Orlando, and each September they host the Dream Big Walk in Northwest Indiana. Their efforts have raised over $1.2 million, all of it directly funding projects that help animals and people, including the playground at 4 Paw Sake Rescue.

4 Paw Sake volunteers
Volunteers take a break from planting flowers around the dog playground to pose for a photo. Back row, from left: Marion Bloberde (Dawn Brancheau’s mom), Diane Gross (Dawn’s sister), Debbie Frogameni (Dawn’s sister), Chris Siatta (Paw Palace staff), Pam Kisenka (4 Paw Sake volunteer), Paula Newton (4 Paw Sake volunteer), Lauren Payne (Paw Palace staff), Nikki Monaldi (volunteer). Front row: Cole Gross (grandson of Diane Gross) and Jessica Gross (daughter of Diane Gross). (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Ways for others to help

Both 4 Paw Sake Rescue and the Dawn Brancheau Foundation offer a variety of opportunities for people who want to make a difference in their communities. Details about existing projects as well as suggestions for new projects are available on their websites:

The 4 Paw Sake Rescue website also has a number of opportunities specifically for dog lovers to make a difference:

The Paw Palace campus, including 4 Paw Sake Rescue, is located at 2739 Glenwood-Dyer Road in Lynwood, Illinois. More information is available:

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