Column: Dedicated Pasadena Humane volunteers get a rosy spotlight on Jan. 1, 2024

Pasadena Humane volunteers help decorate our 2024 Rose Parade float, “Feed the Love,” sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Recently, I had the privilege of working alongside dozens of Pasadena Humane volunteers as we began the “dry” decorating of our 2024 Rose Parade float, “Feed the Love,” sponsored by Hill’s Pet Nutrition.

Who knew that white fur could be made of grains of rice? Or that shades of brown could be achieved through lentils, seeds and various other dry materials? I can’t wait to see a shining stainless steel dog food bowl made of silver leaf.

Pasadena Humane volunteers are true heroes for the animals, and their dedication is shown in so many ways…including the patient and meticulous application of tiny, black onion seeds to create our logo on the float.

We want to ensure our Rose Parade entry highlights our volunteers’ dedication to making our community a better place for pets. So, we asked a handful of volunteers who embody our mission to be a special part of the New Year’s celebration.

Three-time Volunteer of the Year winner Tom Ratanavaraha will join me and 10 other riders on our float.

Tom has volunteered as a dog socializer and walker nearly every day since 2008 and has donated 13,000 total volunteer hours to date. That’s the hourly equivalent of roughly five years of full-time work!

Tom is a fan of the underdog, especially the large-breed dogs who often get overlooked for adoption. Tom is planning to ride on the float with an adoptable dog from Pasadena Humane, representing the thousands of amazing dogs in shelters across the country waiting to find new homes.

As a nonprofit organization, Pasadena Humane is governed by a dedicated group of volunteers who serve as board directors.

Eric Heer, board chair, will be riding on the float New Year’s Day. In addition to his board service, Eric and his wife Samantha have volunteered for years as kitten fosters.

Another volunteer riding on the float will be Beverly Marksbury, a current director and past chair of the Pasadena Humane board. Bev is a dedicated volunteer for numerous nonprofits including the Tournament of Roses.

Accompanying Bev on the float will be Bodhi, a pug adopted from Pasadena Humane 13 years ago by David Eads, CEO of the Tournament.

As our “Feed the Love” float cruises down Orange Grove and Colorado Boulevards, sixteen Pasadena Humane and Hill’s representatives will walk alongside it. They will carry banners encouraging viewers to adopt, foster, volunteer and donate to their local shelters.

Among our “outwalkers,” as they are called, will be Juan Vargas.

Juan, a Gulf War veteran, has volunteered at Pasadena Humane for more than five years, earning more than 7,000 total service hours.

The Navy taught Juan to be a “jack of all trades,” which explains why he is often the first volunteer called upon by many departments at the shelter.

Juan helps wherever he is needed. Whether that’s checking-in patients for our vaccine clinics, transporting injured wildlife to rehabilitation centers or helping our events run smoothly, Juan is up to the task.

Walking with Juan in the parade will be Lindsay and Dave McMenamin. This husband-and-wife duo has been volunteering at Pasadena Humane for nearly six years.

They primarily foster kittens, especially newborns needing round-the-clock bottle feeding. The McMenamins have accrued 5,700 volunteer hours by fostering nearly 100 kittens.

I look forward to riding alongside these committed animal lovers and hopefully inspiring viewers throughout the world to share their love with shelter pets.

Interested in getting a closer look at several floats, including ours? Join us on Dec. 28 for a behind-the-scenes tour and luncheon at the Rosemont Pavilion, followed by the opportunity to decorate the Pasadena Humane float with fresh flowers.

Get tickets at


Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane.

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on December 1, 2023.