Big Heart Award

What is The Big Heart Award?

The Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit’s Big Heart Award award is determined by the Board of Directors* and given annually at the Black Tie & Tails event to a valued supporter who:

  1. Exemplifies the Mission of the Friends:
    The mission of the Friends for Animals of Metro Detroit is to provide loving care and sanctuary to animals, encourage adoptions and reunions, and promote respect, responsibility, and compassion for all animals.
  2. Exemplifies true support of the humane treatment of animals, through thought, word and deed, whatever the arena or circumstance.
  3. Has consistently over time donated time, support, and/or talent to facilitate or further the cause of animal welfare.

* Friends Board of Directors members are exempt from receiving the Big Heart Award.

Our Big Heart Award Recipients

2014DrSchrierDr. Linda Schrier – 2014
Dr. Linda Schrier, from Vet Select Animal Hospital in Dearborn, has devoted her time and talents to keeping our shelter animals healthy for more than a dozen years. She is a frequent “visiting vet” at our facility, often boards injured animals in recovery, and regularly waives or dramatically reduces fees to keep shelter costs down. In addition, Dr. Schrier participates in FAMD programs such as Santa Paws, Fix-a-Feline, and low-cost microchip clinics. According to shelter manager Heather Mehi, “Dr. Schrier will do whatever it takes for us to save another life. ” Dr. Schrier’s own two dogs, Luke and Sunny, are rescues from the Dearborn Animal Shelter.

Kay & Doug Neff – 2013
Kay & Doug Neff are tremendous community supporters of Dearborn, and have been ambassadors for the Friends since our inception. They helped spearhead two of our signature fundraisers, the Critter Invitational and Black Tie & Tails. Kay serves as the chair of Black Tie & Tails, which has become a premier event in Southeast Michigan thanks to her efforts. In addition, Doug serves on the Animal Adoption & Education Center steering committee and has rallied tirelessly to get our new shelter built. The Neffs share their home with cats Sadie and Monty (both adopted from FFDAS), and Lucy.

Scott Shallop – 2012
Scott Shallop’s life has literally been devoted to animals. His family started Pet Supplies Plus in 1988, and Scott is currently the owner of 4 Pet Supplies Plus franchises. He first became involved with the Friends nearly 15 years ago by hosting an October “Petoberfest” adoption event. Since then, the Dearborn store, located at Telegraph and Oxford, has become a virtual extension of the shelter since Scott donates space for our Training Center. Scott’s pet family includes toy poodles Sam & Murphy, and rescue cat Kramer.

Aleta Sill & Michelle Mullen – 2011
In 2006, pro bowlers Aleta Sill and Michelle Mullen created the now-annual Bowl-4-Animal Rescue. All proceeds—over $62,000 to date—benefit the Friends and the Michigan Animal Adoption Network. Michelle and Aleta participate in our Cool Cat Casino Night, Mutt Strut & Pet Expo, and canister donation program. They also promote animal rescue through a link to our website from theirs, and via Michelle’s blog. Michelle and Aleta have eight rescued animals between them: dogs Sisco, Princess, George, and Bobby Michael, and cats Macy Gray, Zeebs, Tigger, and Pooh.

Dr. Jeffrey Dizik – 2010
Dr. Jeffrey Dizik, owner of Lincoln Park Veterinary Hospital, Downriver Animal Hospital in Wyandotte, and Affiliated Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Allen Park. Dr. Dizik has been a steadfast supporter of the Friends’ annual Spay Day low-cost voucher program, has facilitated spay/neuter services for shelter animals through the Michigan Veterinary Association, and was a major service donor during the 2009 Chihuahua rescue. He has also been a perennial sponsor of our Black Tie & Tails benefit. Dr. Dizik’s family includes dogs Tigger and Phoebe.

Norma Wallis (2009 Big Heart Award)Norma Wallis – 2009
Norma Wallis is the President and CEO of Livernois Vehicle Development. She has been a Community Leader for over 25 years and is widely recognized as one of the most influential business women in Michigan. She is a long time Friends supporter, past Chair and Presenting Sponsor of our Critter Invitational Golf Outing, and the Honorary Co-Chair of our New Shelter Campaign. She has two dogs – Lexie and Buddy, and three cats – Goofy, Gabby, and Luckie.

MaryAnn Wright – 2008
MaryAnn Wright, CEO of Johnson Controls–Saft Advanced Power Solutions LLC in Milwaukee.

The three Big Heart Award criteria may have been written with MaryAnn in mind. First, she exemplifies the Friends’ mission of providing loving care and sanctuary to animals: She is proud “Mom” to rottweiler Dexter and cats Winter and Scout, all shelter rescues.

Second, she exemplifies true support of the humane treatment of animals: MaryAnn is passionate—and vocal—about raising funds to build the Friends’ new “green” animal shelter.

Third, she has consistently lent support to further the cause of animal welfare. Among her many contributions, Mary Ann has sponsored Black Tie & Tails, the Critter Invitational, and is a platinum Caring Heart.

Phyllis Moore (2007 Big Heart Award)Phyllis Moore – 2007
Big Heart just begins to define this woman. She has always been an animal lover, not just her own fabulous four felines, but any creature that crosses her path. It would not be unusual to see her running down the street in heels and a skirt to rescue an animal in need. Until earlier this year, this remarkable woman was on the Friends’ Board of Directors where her boundless energy and willpower resulted in wonderfully successful events, fundraisers, as well as corporate and community relationships. One thing this humble woman will admit to is that the word “cannot” does not exist in her vocabulary. Ask and she will be there, and sometimes, the request is not necessary. She seems to have some kind of radar that draws her to animals or people in need. She continues to share herself, her many talents and determination to support this organization and as well as the animals. She is an amazing, generous, dedicated, and very dear friend for the Friends.

Alberta Muirhead (2006 Big Heart Award) Alberta Muirhead – 2006
Alberta has been a long-time friend to the animals. As she is quick to tell you, she loves “doggies” with her favorite being a big black lab named Blackout. She is a charter sponsor for the Friends’ Black Tie & Tails, serves on the New Shelter Advisory Board, and generously supports animals in need.

Rick Caputo, DVM (2005 Big Heart Award) Rick Caputo, DVM – 2005
Since the Friends organization was formed in 1993, Rick Caputo has been an invaluable advocate for the Shelter animals, supporting events such as the Critter Invitational, Black Tie & Tails, providing emergency care for injured animals, working with the Shelter to facilitate cost-effective veterinary services, serving on the new-shelter advisory board, and donating time and money to help homeless animals get a second chance for a happy life.

His involvement exemplifies the compassion and commitment to saving animal lives that the Friends organization strives to achieve. His giving spirit and dedication to the animals he reaches is truly remarkable. We are truly honored by his acceptance.

Gary Kuhlmann (2004 Big Heart Award) Gary Kuhlmann – 2004
Since the Friends organization was formed in 1993, Gary Kuhlmann has been an invaluable supporter.

The owner of Park Place, a banquet facility in Dearborn, Kuhlmann has offered the Friends the use of that facility countless times, for events such as our fifth anniversary celebration and for fundraisers such as the Bachelor Auction. He has offered his catering services off-site as well, providing refreshments for key Friends gatherings, including meetings for the new-shelter advisory committee and the architects, and “An Evening With Friends” get-to-know-us event.

Kuhlmann serves on the Friends new-shelter advisory board, and he has sponsored numerous fundraising events, including the Road Rally, Critter Invitational Golf Outing, and Black Tie & Tails.

He generously donates his time to help homeless animals, even if it means showing up late for a dinner engagement because he and his wife, Sue, stopped to rescue a stray kitten along a busy street.

The Kuhlmanns share their home with a cat named Mitzi, who — as our winner will proudly tell you – was adopted from the Dearborn Animal Shelter.