Beagle puppys eating.

Beagle puppys eating.

By Marianne Mueller


Love ones lovingly remember Mellany Vick McDuffa every day. McDuffa grew up in Rockton and attended Hononegah High School. She was employed at Rockford Health System in the lab for 25 years. She passed away on Sept. 25, 2012 after fighting a six-year battle with ovarian cancer.

When Mellany was nearing the end of her life her nurse Mary Ann arranged to have Mellany’s Westie Jack come to visit her. After witnessing the difference that made in such a critical time Mellany’s family established the Loving Tails Pet Therapy program at Rockford Memorial Hospital.

The program which was launched on Valentine’s Day in 2013 allows patients an extra measure of comfort and happiness as patients have received visits from therapy dogs.

Three previous dog walks have opened doors of expansion in the Loving Tails Pet Therapy program.

Every year McDuffa’s family keeps a goal in mind of supporting a designated charity that is cancer related. One of the places that has benefited from Mellany’s dog walk in the past is the Rockford Memorial Cancer center. Over 100 neck pillows have been donated to those who are going through chemo therapy to help make their experience as comfortable as possible.

Last year’s event  resulted in a portion of the money raised being donated to the Rock River Valley Blood Center, with the remainder going toward the Pet Therapy program at Rockford Memorial Hospital.

Continuing good works Mellany’s Fourth Annual Memorial Dog Walk is coming to Settlers Park on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 11 a.m. Join Mellany’s family as they honor her memory while helping others in the process.

New options at this year’s event revolve a super fun theme, “Dogs at the Disco.” Steve Shannon of 97 ZOK will spin tunes of the 70’s. Dogs and humans are encouraged to come dressed to impress by getting creative and colorful while preparing to compete in costume and dance contests.

“Additionally we have decided to have a dog; owner lookalike contest,” says Christopher. “A lot of people do look like their dogs.”

A one mile walk will route rolls through downtown Rockton past the pool, back to Prairie Street and back to the park. Stephanie Mackey from Hair of the Dog Grooming is giving free nail trims in exchange for a donation to the cause.

Water, treats and door prizes will be available for canines and their humans.  As a special treat Brent Murray of the Dairy Haus is giving all dogs special coupons to be used for puppy cones.

Meet therapy dogs and their handlers who will share information out about how to get your dog into a training program if a candidate meets outlined criteria. All training is reimbursed and done through the Volunteer Services Department at Rockford Memorial. More about these programs can be found by calling (815) 971-6284. Funding for the Loving Tails Pet Therapy program is provided and administered by the Rockford Memorial Development Foundation, through the Mellany McDuffa Memorial Fund.

The Rock River Valley Blood Center will be on site and accepting donations. During this time the Rockton Leo’s are offering babysitting services. If giving blood please go to the Rock River Valley Blood Center website at  www.rrvbcorg to self-schedule or call 1-877-RRVBC-99 to schedule a time saving appointment.

Extra volunteer help is needed as well as donations of treats or prizes to place in raffle baskets such as gift cards or other interesting items. Email Millicent at if able to help on these lines.

The cost to participate is $20 per human. Checks may be made payable to: Rockford Memorial Development Foundation.  Pre-register at . Forms and fees may also be returned to Millicent Christopher via Mail in registrations to Millicent Christopher at 3162 Nickolas Way, Rockton, IL. 61072. Registrations will also be accepted the day of the event between 10 and 11 a.m.

All of the proceeds from this year’s event will be used to further missions of the Pet Therapy program at Mercy Health Rockford and the Pet Peace of Mind program at Mercy Hospice Care. Pet Peace of Mind is a national program that enables families to keep their pets at home throughout their end of life journey while in Hospice care.

Right after Mellany’s dog walk dogs will have a chance to romp, play and swim in the Walt Williamson Pool from 1 to 4 p.m.! Extra cash and a beach towel allow dogs an extra dose of fun!

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