Rory Fees always cared for Spokane’s needy cats and dogs when she was alive, and four years after her death her friends are determined to carry her vision forward.
This week is the annual pet food drive to benefit the Spokane Regional Animal Protection Service, with drop off locations around Spokane and Spokane Valley.
When Fees was young, she would ask her friends to bring pet food to her birthday party instead of presents. Then they’d take the food to SpokAnimal, which had the animal control contract at the time. “Back then it was just food in the trunk, not like it is now,” said her mother, Jennifer Fees.
Rory Fees’ friends Chelsea Branom and Korie Truitt have been heading up the pet food drive ever since their friend died by suicide when she was 14. Last year’s effort brought in 2,100 pounds of food, and the duo is hoping for 3,000 pounds this year.
“We kind of just figured go big or go home,” Branom said.
Branom said it was important for her to preserve her friend’s memory. They had played soccer together since the first grade, and after her friend died at the end of their freshman year, Branom couldn’t picture the field without her.
“She was always on my team,” Branom said. “I stopped playing soccer after she died, because she’d always been on my team. I couldn’t do it without her.”
Rory Fees was always the one who made players feel welcome and loved to joke around, Branom said. “She was a super caring, compassionate person,” she said.
Branom and Truitt are leaving for college this fall, but Branom said they won’t let that stop them from collecting kibble. “We’re going to try our hardest to keep this going,” she said.
Jennifer Fees said it means a lot that her daughter’s friends have continued the pet food drive even as their lives extend away from Spokane. “I really didn’t expect them to move forward with it this year,” she said. “It is a great tribute to Rory.”
She has also started a nonprofit organization, Rory’s Way, to organize charitable activities in Rory’s name and raise awareness of mental illness. Every year they participate in the Out of Darkness Walk in downtown Spokane.
Food for dogs and cats can be dropped off at the Petco at 2805 E. 29th Ave., the Petco at 10 N. Sullivan Road, the WSU/Spokane County Extension Office at 222 N. Havana and the Country Store at 5605 E. Sprague Ave. The drive will end Monday, and the donations will be delivered to SCRAPS on Tuesday.
Branom said every year they have a contest between cat and dog food to see which will be donated the most. “Dogs always win, but we’re rooting for the cats this year,” she said. “They’re always the underdogs.”
Helping run the pet food drive isn’t the only way Branom keeps her friend’s memory alive. In addition to being a kind and caring person, Rory didn’t take things too seriously, Branom said.
In that spirit, Branom tries to remember what she learned from Rory – try not to care what people think about you and dance to the beat of your own drum.