Year in Review: Sports Stars to The Rescue 2017 originally appeared in Dog Tipper.

As we get ready to embark on 2018 let’s give a cheer for stars of the sports world whose efforts to help paws causes in 2017 were real game changers for dogs and cats in need!

Baseball

Helping The Lucy Pet Foundation‘s effort to transport dogs and cats from an abandoned Houston grocery story (which had served as their temporary home ever since Hurricane Harvey turned their world upside down), Lance McCullers Jr. of the World Series-winning Houston Astros stepped up to the plate with a donation from The Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation for a $28,000 flight which took the animals to their new life in California.

The pitcher is also helping companion animals who have been thrown a curve ball by life by raising funds for a $300,000 state-of-the-art Lucy Pet Foundation mobile spay/neuter clinic for the Houston area. (Thanks in part to sales of Lucy Pet Products‘ USA-made, cruelty-free items, the non-profit is striving toward a goal of placing a mobile spay/neuter and adoption clinic in each major US city.)

Cameron Rupp, a catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, pitched the option of pet adoption while hosting the first-ever Ruppapalooza. Held at Morgan’s Pier in Philadelphia, attendees enjoyed drinks served by celebrity bartenders, toe-tapping tunes by Tyler Reeve, raffles, games, and the chance to meet dogs who hoped to be a MVP (Most Valuable Pet) in the life of a forever pet parent. The fundraiser benefited The Pennsylvania SPCA, which celebrated its 150th anniversary year in 2017.

“Animals and baseball are my passions and being able to combine the two has been a dream come true,” the sports star stated. “My goal is to make Ruppapalooza an annual event, in which we take on a wide variety of animal-related issues and hopefully figure out a way to make a significant difference.”

A post shared by Cameron Rupp (@crupp928) on Apr 26, 2017 at 2:08pm PDT

A Cy Young Award winner with four rescue dogs on his home team, Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals stepped off of the pitcher’s mound in order to step up to the plate for animals in need by filming a PSA for Humane Rescue Alliance.

Going to bat for homeless animals, several major league teams teamed up with rescue organizations to create fundraising calendars, including: The Tampa Bay Rays, who helped Pet Pal Animal Shelter through sales of their 2018 players and Pooches calendar; the Washington Nationals, who knocked it out of the ballpark with their 2018 calendar for Humane Rescue Alliance, and the Baltimore Orioles, who hit a home run in the hearts of animal lovers with their 2018 calendar benefiting the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS).

Football

Having all that they need in each other, two-time Super Bowl champion Logan Ryan and his bride (certified dog trainer Ashley Bragg) requested that, in lieu of wedding gifts, guests at their St. Lucia I do’s give animals in need the present of a better future by making a donation to HelpAWS, a dog rescue on the Caribbean island. The idea occurred to the couple when a homeless pup decided to pose with them during a wedding photo shoot in the town of Soufriere. (Following the photo session HelpAWS rescued the dog, who named her Logan in honor of the NFL player, who paid for her spay procedure.)

A post shared by Logan Ryan (@realloganryan) on May 10, 2017 at 12:54pm PDT

Along with starting a new life together as husband and wife in 2017, this past year Logan Ryan and his wife have helped dogs and cats in need embark on new lives with forever families by launching The Ryan Animal Rescue Foundation. The charitable organization aids shelters through a grant program and highlights adoptables through Ryan’s Monthly Rescue.

A post shared by Logan Ryan (@realloganryan) on Nov 27, 2017 at 5:13pm PST

Ronnie Stanley of the Baltimore Ravens, who tackled the tough topic of animal abuse by posing for a Show Your Soft Side campaign with his recently adopted Pit Bull Lola in 2016, teamed up with BARCS– where he found his barking buddy– to help other animals in the shelter’s care.   For four days in August the sports star matched donations up to $5,000 for Baltimore Rescue and Care Shelter’s Franky Fund, which provides financial assistance for homeless animals who require urgent medical attention.

The offensive tackle also defended homeless animals by promoting the option of pet adoption (with his Pittie, Lola!) in a PetSmart Foundation PSA.

Encouraging Fido-loving fans to get in the game and help out four-legged friends in need, on December 3rd a number of NFL players chose to play in custom cleats that promoted paws causes. This year’s #MyCauseMyCleats campaign included kicks worn by Ronnie Stanley of the Baltimore Ravens, whose footwear raised funds for BARCS Shelter; The San Francisco 49ers’ Carlos Hyde, whose shoes helped The Humane Society of Silicon Valley; The New York Jets’ Eric Decker donned cleats that aided Deckers Dogs, which teams up shelter dogs turned service dogs with veterans in need; and Logan Ryan of The Tennessee Titans laced up shoes which raised funds for both The Ryan Animal Rescue Foundation and Handsome Dan’s Rescue.

A post shared by Logan Ryan (@realloganryan) on Nov 30, 2017 at 3:59pm PST

Sam Martin of the Detroit Lions tackled the plight of people and pets after Hurricane Harvey by using social media to spread the word about the #Detroit2Houston supply drive. Issuing a challenge to his followers, the sports star stated that he and his canine companion Leo would donate 6 pounds of dog food, up to $10,000, for each retweet of his Twitter message regarding the drive.

A post shared by Sam Martin (@sammartin_6) on Sep 2, 2017 at 9:55am PDT

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith may hasn’t been a member of the Baltimore Ravens since 2014, but the NFL star will always be a team player ready to get in the game and help homeless animals in Charm City. Earlier this year Smith returned to Baltimore for Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS)’ annual Pawject Runway fundraiser, where he and his wife Chanel not only commanded the catwalk with adoptables, the couple also covered the adoption fee of every animal taking part in the event–46 dogs and cats in all.

Torrey Smith also took the time to step in front of the camera for Show Your Soft Side and photographer Leo Howard Lubow in support of The Beagle Bill, which would require research facilities in Maryland to give dogs and cats in labs the chance to live in a forever home once testing is complete.

Torrey Smith was just one of the many animal-loving luminaries to strike a pose with a pup or a pal who purrs for Show Your Soft Side, a national campaign which strives to show impressionable at-risk adolescents that kindness, not cruelty, towards animals is the true measure of a man. Other animal-loving athletes who “watched the birdie” with a canine or cat for the paws cause in 2017 include Rodney McLeod of the Philadelphia Eagles; MLB great AJ Burnett; Nick Boyle of the Baltimore Ravens; Jay Beagle of the Washington Capitals and Senio Kelemete of the New Orleans Saints:

Charlie Batch, who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl victories during his days in the NFL, led people and pets on the 8th annual Panera Pup Walk, a stroll which makes strides each year toward the creation of a better tomorrow for homeless animals. Once again acting as co-Grand Marshal of the event alongside his wife Latasha, the annual event raises funds for the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

A post shared by Charlie Batch (@charliebatch16) on May 30, 2017 at 12:44pm PDT

Ice Hockey

A goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins, when he’s not on the ice Matt Murray helps homeless dogs and cats achieve their goal– to find a forever pet parent. A long-time supporter of the Thunder Bay and District Humane Society, the NHL player raised $1,085 for the Ontario-based non-profit by auctioning the stick he used during the World Cup of Hockey. The sports star has also inspired a passion for compassion in the next generation, and when Murray heard of a young fan who was helping companion animals who had been handed lemons by life by setting up a lemonade stand to raise funds for the player’s favorite paws cause the goalie stopped by to buy a beverage, make a donation, and make the boy’s day by autographing the child’s hockey stick.

Several ice hockey teams helped dogs in need toward their goal of finding a forever home by raising funds for animal charities through sales of pet calendars. Among the teams and players who stepped off of the ice in order to step in front of a camera with a photogenic Fido this year include:

The Pittsburgh Penguins

The 2017 Stanley Cup-winning team has won the hearts of animals lovers for years thanks to their annual Penguins & Paws calendar. As in previous years, the item will raise funds for Humane Animal Rescue Shelter and Wildlife Center.

The L.A. Kings

Dogs rule in the third edition of The L.A. Kings “We are All K-9s” pet calendar! Reggie Doughty, Arlo Dowd and Gustl Kopitar are just a few of the players who smiled for the camera alongside a canine companion, with proceeds from the fundraising item helping Wags & Walks Adoption Center.

The Minnesota Wild

Team members Charlie Coyle, Matt Cullen, Devan Dubnyk, Matt Dumba, Marcus Foligno, Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise, Jared Spurgeon, Alex Stalock, Eric Staal, ChrisStewart, Daniel Winnik, and Jason Zucker struck poses with pups, with all of the proceeds from the 2018 Wild Canine Calendar benefiting Coco’s Heart Dog Rescue. A foster-based,volunteer-run non-profit which has helped more than 4,500 homeless dogs find forever families to love since its start in 2010, funds raised from sales of the calendar will help with the rescue’s veterinary expenses.

Two-time Olympian David Backes of the Boston Bruins continued to offer an assist to dogs and cats in need as the co-founder of Athletes for Animals, a non-profit which provides grants to animal rescues as it spreads the message of pet adoption through its team members, 26 athlete ambassadors from all areas of the sports world. Stepping up their A game in 2017, Athletes for Animals took part in 34 projects over the year and helped to add to the organization’s overall total of $405,862 in funds grants, 395 hours volunteering, and 4,272 animals helped since its start in 2013.