The Dan Calabria Heart-to-Heart Fund: A Good-Bye Salute and a Happy Beginning

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

In a year that was too frequently filled with sad news, we want to share a warm story of friendship and how sorrow can turn into joy. Former Friends of Strays Board Member, Bill Grom, recently established the Dan Calabria Heart to Heart Fund in honor of his late friend and their shared love of shelter animals.

While recovering from a heart attack in 2015, Bill joined a cardiac rehabilitation group at the Palms of Pasadena. The group of 16 was a family. In addition to the hours spent together at the Palms every week, they gathered for dinner every Sunday evening at Skidders, bonding over their shared health experience and how it affected their everyday lives. Bill had a connection with all of his fellow rehabers, but his friendship with Dan was particularly special. The two spoke on the phone multiple times a week --usually conversing about the Tampa Bay Rays, current events, and dogs. 

Dan lost his beloved dog Bo to old age, and as anyone who’s ever loved a dog knows, the pain of that loss can linger for years. But in January of 2020, Dan told Bill he was finally ready to open his heart to another dog in need. Bill directed him to Brody, a handsome senior boy, patiently awaiting his forever home at Friends of Strays. Brody had heartworm disease, a potentially fatal disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes, causing foot-long worms that live in the heart and blood vessels. Having a cardiac condition himself, Dan knew that Brody was meant to be his. 

When Dan passed away in the fall, Bill and the rest of the cardiac rehab group at Palms of Pasadena wanted to honor their good friend. Cardiac patients saving heartworm positive dogs like Brody -- it was the perfect fit! And so was born the Dan Calabria Heart to Heart Fund to support the treatment of heartworm positive dogs at Friends of Strays. 

Heartworm is a common, highly treatable disease in dogs. However treatment is costly and can therefore lead to in euthanasia at many shelters. And the incidence of heartworm disease in shelter dogs is thought to be higher than in other dogs because stray and surrendered pets are less likely to have received prior veterinary care or to have been on routine heartworm prevention. Nevertheless, after successful treatment, heartworm positive dogs go on to live normal, healthy lives.  

Friends of Strays is in the vast minority of shelters that covers 100% of the treatment cost for all of our dogs with heartworm disease, something that cost the shelter more than $12,000 in 2020. Going forward, the Dan Calabria Heart to Heart Fund will collect donations to offset that cost and give us the means to save more of Pinellas County’s most at-risk pets. To date, Dan and Bill’s rehab group, together with Dan’s family, have raised more than $2,000 and want to encourage others to contribute as well.

To donate to the Dan Calabria Heart to Heart Fund for heartworm positive dogs, click here and select “Heart to Heart Fund” from the dropdown menu.