The Baseball Fans Benefitting Anderson Humane

On a recent Saturday, you could

see 11 people digging in the grounds outside Anderson Humane’s South Elgin facility. They were building a sensory garden for the dogs currently living at the shelter. While many of these people had never met each other before that day, they had three key loves in common: giving back, animals, and the Chicago White Sox.

The group was small part of the White Sox Volunteer Corps, some 5,000-plus fans who signed up to volunteer in the community on behalf of the White Sox. Members of the corps have been volunteering once or twice a year at Anderson Humane since 2016. “We have a lot of animal lovers in this group so the Anderson Humane events are always popular,” said Caitlin Hanley, the Senior Manager of Community Relations for the White Sox.

Last summer was the first time Anderson Humane had a sensory garden, a project that’s a challenge for already over-busy staff members to create. “Without the White Sox team, the garden would not have been possible,” said Dr. Andy Salis, Director of Animal Behavior at Anderson Humane. “Shelter staff are always carrying a lot on their shoulders and we would not have had the time to set aside for this project.” The volunteers had it done in an hour.

“It was huge that they were able to tackle that,” said Sammi Catanzaro, Senior Volunteer Engagement Coordinator for Anderson Humane. “They were a great group – willing to do whatever we needed, and even to work outside on a warm day.”

Anderson Humane staff and volunteers now stop by the garden when taking the shelter dogs for walks. The animal-safe plants offer a needed change of sights and smells for the dogs at the shelter, who can easily get bored by the sameness or overwhelmed by the sometimes chaotic atmosphere.

“The sensory garden provides much-needed enrichment for shelter pets,” Dr. Andy said. “The garden allows dogs to exercise species-typical behavior, which helps to reduce shelter stress and lessens the likelihood that they will develop behavioral challenges while in the shelter. For the cats, who cannot come to the garden, we bring clippings from the garden to them. This provides the same positive stimulation for the cats.” The volunteers even added a bench so the dogs and their walkers can enjoy a little snuggle time and so staff and volunteers can escape to the garden when they need a moment to recharge.

Once they were done with the garden, the White Sox Volunteer Corps members went inside to create licky mats, another important enrichment element for the animals. The volunteers coated rubber mats of various size and texture with wet food – such as dog food, apple sauce, or cream cheese – and then froze them. The finished licky mats take dogs a while to eat, because the food is frozen, and offer different textures, shapes, and tastes for them to enjoy in the process.

The volunteers enjoyed the variety as well. “They had a lot of fun with it,” said Sammi. “Some of them treated the mats like an art project.” Others were inspired by the enrichment ideas, “My dog would love this!” Sammi heard several volunteers say about the garden and the mats.

While the corps members worked, Sammi and other staff members shared about Anderson Humane’s work to adopt out homeless pets, care for injured wild animals, and connect humans and animals through our MVP, Constant Companions, and other programs. “They were amazed at all we do,” Sammi said.

At the end of their volunteer shift, the group left a pile of completed licky mats, a garden ready for four-legged visitors, and a staff eager to have the helpful group back again. Thanks, White Sox Volunteer Corps!

Does your group want to volunteer? Learn more or contact our volunteer team at or 847-697-2880 ext. 29.

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