Hawaii Island Humane Society employee Whitney Sickels and her father, John, just completed a cross-country trip from Ohio to California. But this was no ordinary road trip.
The father and daughter were driving the humane society’s new spay and neuter mobile clinic from Columbus to Long Beach on the West Coast, where it was put on a container ship headed for Hilo, with an expected July 13 arrival.L
LaBoit Specialty Vehicles customized the $200,000, 26-foot van to specifications and needs — but the price tag to transport the vehicle to Hawaii Island was $20,000. So Sickels decided to hop a plane and join her father on the mainland, driving the vehicle 2,400 miles across 10 states at a fraction of the cost.
The Spay &Neuter Waggin’ emblazoned with the HIHS logo and photos of adopted pets caused quite a stir on the journey.
“We got lots of smiles and waves along the way,” Sickels said, noting people were surprised when they learned the vehicle’s final destination.
A Facebook fundraising page documented their adventure, soliciting donations en route. Sickels said community support exceeded expectations, raising $3,150 to support the Humane Society.
Sickels secured a $100,000 matching grant from the Laurence H. Dorcy Hawaiian Foundation. The community responded by raising the matching funds to purchase the $200,000 vehicle.
She was also able to obtain an additional $100,000 from the Dave and Cheryl Buffield Foundation to stock the van with supplies.
“With that money, we will be able to start clinics immediately on the island,” Sickels said.
Currently, part-time veterinarian Kelly Korth performs spay-and-neuter clinics at the Keaau and Kailua-Kona shelters, along with a once-a-month-clinic in Ocean View. The mobile clinic will allow pet owners in more remote areas access to free spay-and-neuter services once a week, starting in North Kohala.
The van runs off a generator, so the only thing they will need is a place to park.
“We are so excited about its arrival!!!” HIHS executive director Donna Whitaker said via email to West Hawaii Today.
“We are ordering supplies and working on a tentative schedule for July, August and September that will take us to spots around the whole island and we plan to offer a day per week at our Animal Community Center,” Whitaker said.
HIHS will be accepting appointments online, where a calendar of locations will be posted. In addition to the free same-day spay/neuter service, microchipping will be available for $10.
When the van is not being used for sterilization procedures, it will act as a traveling adoption center and educational tool.
“The more spay and neutering we can do in the community, the better it is for the community,” said Sickels. “We reduce euthanasia and that’s a win, win, win for everyone — the community, pets and HIHS.”