At the Scottsdale home of Sonia and John Breslow, it’s reigning cats and dogs.
From her earliest childhood memories in Omaha, NE, Sonia says she had a passion for any animal, but especially “puppies and kittens and rabbits,” and was always bringing home strays.
“My parents tolerated my dedication to a point,” she recalls, “but there was the time one bunny got so fat from love that my mom gave it to our cleaning lady, who turned it into rabbit stew. I was mad for weeks – maybe even to this day,” Sonia says with a rueful smile.
She shares that her mom and dad, both Holocaust survivors, did love animals “but they weren’t the priority that they were with me. They valued human life above everything. I too love my family dearly, but my feelings about animals are transcendent.”
Armed with that knowledge, and John’s desire to honor his wife with a meaningful tribute for her 60th birthday, he went into action. John, whom Sonia lovingly describes as a “humble mensch,” challenged her to plan her own party – which she did.
For starters, he challenged her to plan her own party – which she did. Sonia says she went all out, arranging “a gorgeous event” for friends and family at the Royal Palms Hotel. And as for a present to mark the occasion? “I had everything I could want,” she acknowledges, “but I do love fast cars, and I thought, just maybe, John was going to add to my collection.”
But John, the retired entrepreneurial owner of a Lincoln, NE gas manufacturing and welding supply company, was headed in a different and spectacularly unique direction. He had been inspired some two years before the birthday by a story on a local newscast about the Arizona Animal Welfare League. Two years in the planning, and a total surprise for the birthday girl, the Sonia Breslow Adoption Center at the Arizona Animal Welfare League’s campus at Washington and 40th St., was completed and ready for its 2012 unveiling, thanks to John’s $2 million donation in Sonia’s honor.
Unbeknownst to Sonia, John told party guests to arrive early to the Royal Palms, where they then boarded buses. Sonia, who says she “hates surprises,” was told to board first, so she would be the last to disembark. When the crowd arrived at 25 N. 40th St., they were greeted by a band, television cameras, a brand new building – and draped signage. The unveiling revealed the surprise.
“What John did for me,” Sonia says, “is to create a legacy. When he had set the plan in motion, he told the planners to ‘think big,’ and they did.”
At the center, some 4,500 dogs and cats are cared for at any given time until lifetime homes are found for them. Hundreds of volunteers are on hand at the shelter and to help at special events. Numerous foster families nurture puppies and kittens until they are old enough to be adopted, once perspective owners are carefully interviewed.
A capital campaign in conjunction with John Breslow’s donation garnered $1 million to also allow for expansion and renovation of a shelter clinic, a pet adoption center at Chandler Fashion Center, replacement of a puppy mill retail store and more.
According to Arizona Animal Welfare League President and CEO Judith Gardner, “Our commitment, as a no-kill shelter, is to help neglected, abandoned, injured and sick animals and care for them until each is adopted into a loving, lifetime home.” She says “The $3 million has afforded us the opportunity to double our capacity to help so many more animals and enable us to further our leadership role in the animal welfare community.”
For more information about the Sonia Breslow Adoption Center at the Arizona Animal Welfare League, visit aawl.org.