By Michael J. ARVIZU
St. George’s Episcopal Church in La Cañada will commemorate the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi with its annual blessing of the animals at 10 a.m. on Oct. 7 on the church’s lawn.
At the blessing of the animals, St. George’s will also be raising funds for a new habitat to house Meatball the bear.
Meatball gained notoriety this summer as the bear that, despite efforts to return it to its native habitat in the Angeles National Forest, repeatedly came down from his home in the mountains and sought refuge in Crescenta Valley backyards, seeking out food and water.
The bear captured the attention of the local and national media, and even garnered a following on Twitter. After being captured in August for the third time, Meatball now resides at Lions, Tigers & Bears, a wild animal sanctuary in Alpine, about 30 miles east of San Diego. The bear was to call Colorado home originally, but state law prohibits animals captured in the wild to be taken in by a wildlife sanctuary.
Meatball is currently being housed in a small enclosure at the Alpine facility. He is being kept under quarantine and in a small enclosure until it is determined that the bear poses no health risk to other animals, becomes accustomed to his new surroundings, and is neutered. Ultimately, Meatball will live in a new and spacious three- to five-acre habitat that will allow him to roam and play among the oak trees and natural grasses, said Bobbi Brink, founder and director of Lions, Tigers & Bears.
“Our goal is getting him there as soon as possible,” said Brink. “The plan for him to stay here was unexpected, but he’s down in the quarantine cage eating and putting weight back on.”
Construction of the new habitat is already underway, and is expected to cost $250,000, said Lions, Tigers & Bears spokeswoman Jennifer Jenkins.
“Our challenge is not with housing him now, but getting the funds we need to move forward with the project,” Jenkins said. “Any funds that we get in for Meatball will go for his care.”
The sanctuary has already raised about $80,000 in cash and in-kind donations, Jenkins said. The public will have an opportunity to contribute to Meatball’s habitat at St. George’s blessing of the animals with help from Prom Plus Club. The club is helping to Build a Bear Habitat.
“I think it is important that we help Meatball get a nice home,” said Ben Campos, Prom Plus Club treasurer of hours. “Prom Plus has always made sure that kids have a safe place to go so we should make sure Meatball has a safe place too.”
“What we plan to do is to just collect money and take any donation, large or small,” said St. George Parish Administrator Anthony Keller.
For more information on St. George’s blessing of the animals and fundraiser for Meatball, call (818) 790-3323. St. George’s Episcopal Church is located at 808 Foothill Blvd. in La Cañada.
Other churches hosting blessings of the animals this weekend include St. Luke’s of the Mountains Episcopal Church, 2563 Foothill Blvd. in La Crescenta at 10 a.m. on Oct. 7; and Holy Redeemer and St. James the Less parishes at 7:30 a.m. today, Thursday, at St. James, 4625 Dunsmore Ave. in La Crescenta.