Ralphie Pug

My first rescue pug, Ralph, who inspired this project

Ralphie was a special needs pug who came to us when he was 8.  His former family told the intake facility he was 5 and his papers simply said “Family had baby. Did not want,” and nothing else.  They didn’t even drop him off with a collar or toy.

I was a graduate student in Chicago who nervously took in my first foster pug in 2011, I didn’t have much money but had a pug shaped hole in my life after moving across the country.  During our first vet visit, Ralph had a reaction to the rabies vaccination (as we had no information on him) and nearly died in my arms.  I learned that night, saving animals other people give up is a costly venture, but it was something I was passionately called to do.

Virtual Charity Runs began in 2013 simply as the Virtual Pug Run.  At the time, we had just lost our darling rescue pug, Ralph, at age 11 to cancer.  I knew in my time as a foster mom and volunteer with the Northern Illinois Pug Rescue, that the costs from intake to adoption were often far higher than the adoption fees covered.  Rescues frequently take in sick and elderly dogs who need a bit more TLC than the $300 adoption covers, and fundraising is crucial.

Around that time, I had just completed a challenge to run 13 half marathons in 2013 and was so impressed with the tenacity and passion my fellow fundraisers had to fund raise for a good cause and work hard for some bling.

Ralph the pug

It was also a time that our little Ralphie was diagnosed with cancer and was crossing the rainbow bridge in just a few short months.  I wanted to give back and two parts of my life coalesced into one, in a very glittery- pugalicious way.


I will never forget that first race- I needed to grab Pepto Bismol when I placed the medal order on my personal credit card, having no idea if people would actually want to sign up.  A pugicorn medal seemed super cute to me, but who knew if we’d sell enough to hit our first fundraising goal?

I had no idea about shipping labels – and it took me (with the help of the occasional friend) over 3 weeks to process the hundreds of medals and hand write, and hand tape every package.  Thank goodness people were patient, but it literally took every night and weekend for nearly a month to process all of the orders!

Virtual Pug Run Medals

Eventually, when Aaron came into the fold- he brought with him packaging and planning savvy that I didn’t possess. While I’m good with adorable pug faces, glitter and get jazzed about the creative process to with local charities, I wasn’t super great at executing and shipping…not to mention keeping the books!  As our relationship grew, our family grew- and Aaron and I were the proud adoptive parents of a rescued pug, Matilda and a rescued Boston Terrier, Mr. BoJangles.

It wasn’t until our third Virtual Charity Runs, the Boston Terrier Virtual Run to fund-raise for the Midwest Boston Terrier Rescue, that we wanted to scale our passion project to help more organizations. And the rest is history!

Chicago Theater

Shannyn & Aaron on a running tour in Chicago.

Thank you for joining us on this journey! And if you’d like to learn more about VCR, check out our Virtual Charity Runs – What We Do or our Virtual Runs FAQS page.


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