Franklin's Friends celebrates raising millionth dollar with event tonight
By Kristen Fiore
Franklin’s Friends founders Anthony Douglas and Monisha Seth searched for months before they adopted their first dog through SPCA — Franklin, a tricolored foxhound who glared at them from the back of his soiled cage where he was laying daintily.
Seth actually grew up fearing dogs to the point that when she visited Douglas’ family they had to put the dogs away. Eventually she grew comfortable with one of the family’s older and calmer dogs, and thus a new love was born.
Seth and Douglas both grew up in Winter Park and met as undergraduates at the University of Central Florida. For medical school, they went to Philadelphia, got married, and then returned to Orlando to set up their practices. A big thing they have in common: they’re both internal medicine specialists. They also both save pets’ lives.
In 2003, they began Franklin’s Friends, a local nonprofit organization with a mission to support Central Florida animal welfare by fundraising for agencies who are dedicated to shelter rescue, spaying and neutering pets and community education projects.
Douglas said that Franklin served as an inspiration for the couple, because without SPCA, they never would have had him.
“We were just so grateful that he had a place to stay while he was waiting to find his forever home,” Seth said. “We wanted to do something to give back so that other dogs would have places to stay too.”
In 2003, the couple made a pack of walkers for one of SPCA’s walks, the Wiggle Waggle Walk, called their pack Franklin’s Friends and raised around $500.
“We raised the most money as a pack and it was $500,” Douglas said. “That’s a lot of money, but we thought, if we’re the ones doing the best, that’s not good, we could do more.”
From there, the organization grew and grew. In 2013, the duo decided to make Franklin’s Friends their own nonprofit organization so that they could raise money for more than just SPCA. Franklin’s Friends continues to work with SPCA, just in a different way.
Another reason Franklin’s Friends became its own organization was because the founders hoped to attack the problem itself and focus on community education and funding spaying and neutering events and clinics.
Franklin’s Friends has also furnished surgical suites and provided grants for medical and surgical costs for shelter animals in need.
“The surgical suites are really cool because that’s a very tangible thing and you can increase the amount of spay and neuter, especially with feral cats,” Douglas said.
Since the couple grew up in Central Florida and plans to stay here, they want to keep their focus on Central Florida animal welfare. The counties that are eligible for grants include Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Lake and Volusia county.
“What really tugs your heartstrings are the stories of an actual dog that wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for our grant, and that’s probably the most meaningful to us,” Seth said.
She hopes that the community education and spaying and neutering will work to decrease the amount of pets in shelters in general, but that’s a more long term process.
On Saturday, April 8, Franklin’s Friends will have its fourth annual fundraising event at the Orlando Science Center. The couple are anticipating that the event will be sold out to 200 people, but the biggest accomplishment is that there they will raise their millionth dollar — a big growth from the $500 they started with.
The money goes farther since Franklin’s Friends is staffed with volunteers only.
“We all have full time jobs,” Seth said. “It’s just a tribute to our volunteers that they’re so passionate and willing to give up their time and hold the cause so dear to their hearts.”
As for their own professions, Douglas said that being doctors hasn’t really influenced their involvement in animal welfare as much as you’d think it would.
“Clearly by what we do for a living we like helping people,” Douglas said simply. “But we like helping pets too.”
Although Franklin passed away a couple of years ago, his legacy lives on through the organization. The family has since grown to four more rescued dogs: Annie, a hound dog, Juliette, a 16-year-old blind beagle, and Winston and Lincoln, an extremely high-energy pair.
“They’re spoiled rotten,” Seth laughed. “They have more room in the bed than we do.”
“Unleashed. Uncorked. Unframed.” is from 7-10 p.m. Saturday, April 8 at the Orlando Science Center. It’s an evening of wine, gourmet cuisine, live and silent auctions plus an art sale. Put on your cocktail attire and come support local animal welfare. Visit unleashedfundraiser.info for more information.