Imagine a line of farolitos coming from the darkness to a warm place of refuge – the Santa Fe Animal Shelter. Now imagine that each of those brightly lit paper lanterns represents the life of a homeless animal saved thanks to a community’s generosity.
It’s a striking visual and something that Evelyn Viechec, the shelter’s director of growth, believes will grow into an annual holiday tradition. But the 2,000 farolitos the shelter hopes to collect through $100 donations during its monthlong campaign this winter represent much more than a beautiful event: It’s a symbol of hope and love for animals everywhere, especially in Northern New Mexico.
“Santa Fe is such an animal-loving community,” Evelyn said. “The community expects – and deserves – a lot from its hometown shelter. We hope everyone will come out and feel a sense of pride that he or she has helped saved the life of a homeless animal.”
The Light Their Way Home campaign, which starts Nov. 18, culminates with the farolito lighting at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 at the shelter, 100 Caja del Rio Road. Scores of volunteers and staff have agreed to help light the farolitos and will join in the celebration that evening, which includes refreshments, the lighting of the shelter Christmas tree and singing around a courtyard luminaria.
Farolitas and luminarias are a unique Northern New Mexico tradition, one that the shelter will honor in its own special way. The lights have their roots in the 1800s, when small bonfires were used to guide people to the celebration of Christmas Mass.
Now, the lights will help with saving the lives of homeless animals. For every $100 gift the shelter receives during its campaign, the shelter will add the donor’s name — or the name of an animal or a person someone wishes to honor – to a farolito and line the shelter’s entrance. The goal is to raise $200,000 and light they way home for 2,000 shelter animals.
“A homeless animal’s life is often filled with darkness, without a loving home to brighten his or her life,” said Mary Martin, the shelter’s executive director. “With your help, we can light their way home this holiday season and beyond.”