Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
From grief, incredible strength and caring can be born. This is true with the Kobi Fund, created by a group of caring cat lovers. Their story deeply touched me, and I’m sure it will touch you too.
After losing her cat to vaccine associated sarcoma, Gigi Howe founded the Feline VAS Support Group in 1999. VAS is a cancer that develops from routine vaccinations. Colleen Hanley became a member when her cat, Kobi, developed VAS at two years old.
“Kobi’s hind leg was amputated to remove the cancer,” Gigi explained. “The amputation surgery was a success, and Kobi lived cancer-free as a three legged kitty.”
Colleen kept active in the organization, helping others going through the same thing.
“Colleen and Kobi gave our members hope,” Gigi said. “Hope is something you don’t see too often with VAS.”
Besides offering advice and support, Colleen helped create the VAS Support Group’s Guide for Amputee Caregivers.
Colleen was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, losing her battle in 2007. Her cats, Kobi and Sushi, were adopted by another VAS Support Group member, Sue Wachtel.
The support group was devastated by the loss of Colleen.
“We missed her kindness, support, and the love she gave so many,” Gigi said.
She reached out to VAS Support Group moderator Barbara Costa and Sue Wachtel, who put together the Kobi Team along with other support group members to create a fund in memory of Colleen.
“The Kobi Team researched ways for us to make our fund a reality,” Gigi said. “Tim Meeker, the director of Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program, took us under his wing. Tim received the application and also administers our grants.”
Today, the Kobi Fund helps cat owners with financial hardships with expenses related to VAS.
“Treatment for VAS can range into the tens of thousands of dollars,” Gigi said. “We have funded surgeries to help save cats and have helped families with end-of-life care for their cats.”
The video below, Kes Versus the Monster, documents a cat’s recovery from an amputation after suffering vaccine associated sarcoma.
Seven people, including two registered veterinary technicians, make up the Kobi Team. Gigi explained that they have all had cats with VAS.
“Over the years we have helped 32 applicants by funding a little over $30,000,” she said. “Our support is financial and emotional, if needed. We are there if someone needs an ear or a shoulder.”
Wondering how to get involved fighting VAS or help with Kobi Fund?
“Educate yourself, your vet, your friends, anyone you meet who talks about cats,” Barbara said. “We are amazed at the number of people who’ve never heard of VAS. Learn the facts about proper vaccine protocols. Not all cats need all vaccines.”
I asked Gigi where she hoped the Kobi Fund would be in five years.
“Actually,” she said, “the Kobi Team would love if the fund was no longer needed and that VAS ceases to exist. But if we are needed, we hope to be financially viable so we will be able to continue to help families financially and emotionally.”
For more information, visit Kobi Fund on Facebook.