Bob Reina presents family members of the late Wendy Albano with a check for $75,000 to ensure naming rights of the new feral cat patio in her honor

Watch the touching moment!

Spirits were high at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay Animal Health Center’s (AHC) grand opening celebration last Thursday; even the torrential downpour did not keep the smiles from shining and the tears from flowing. Much of the positive energy had to do with a surprise donation from Bob Reina, Founder and CEO at Talk Fusion, a global video communication company in Brandon, Humane Society board member and supporter who has given the Society its largest donation to date. Attendees may have expected the requisite “donor” speech from the honored guest who gave the Society $1 million to fund the building of the AHC. But they were soon riveted when he humbly and graciously presented a $75,000 check to HSTB Executive Director Sherry Silk and the Albano Family to be used for naming the feral cat patio at the AHC in honor of the late Wendy Albano.

Bob Reina (far right) presents the Albano family (center- daughters Lauren and Jennifer pictured with their grandparents Peter and Ellen Greenwald) with a check for $75,000. Photo credit: Jennifer Roark McCants

In February 2012, Wendy Albano, a beloved Tampa Bay businesswoman, was murdered while on vacation in Thailand. As a tribute to their mother’s love for cats, Jennifer and Lauren Albano established “Wendy’s Kitty Fund” to raise the $100,000 needed to name the Animal Health Center’s feral cat patio in her honor. Through fundraising events and the diligent efforts of friends and family, “Wendy’s Kitty Fund” had raised $25,000 at the time of the grand opening, an admirable amount but still short of the goal.

Reina, a former Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy, was deeply touched by the tragic Albano case and the resilience he witnessed in her daughters. When he became aware that they were having difficulty raising the necessary funds for the patio naming, he resolved to make their dream come true by contributing the remaining $75,000.

“I am very impressed by the initiative both Jennifer and Lauren have taken to create a legacy for Wendy,” Reina said. “They have endured the unimaginable. And for that, I am happy to help them achieve their dream in memory of their mother. I strongly believe in them and that they will take the opportunity to pay it forward.”

Wendy Albano’s extended family and close friends were present at the ceremony along with her parents who were also celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary.

“I wish everyone in Tampa Bay could have seen the looks of pure shock, relief and joy on the family’s faces when Bob presented the check,” said Sherry Silk. “I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. What a wonderful tribute to Wendy and her daughters, and a fitting anniversary present for her parents!”

Just before the ceremony, representatives from Wendy’s Kitty Fund met with Sherry Silk and HSTB Director of Development Nancy McCall to discuss the next steps in raising funds to meet their goal. Both Silk and McCall report how difficult it was not to “let the cat out of the bag”.

“Bob has once again shown that he not only cares for animals in need, but also for people who are suffering or experiencing difficulty in their lives,” said Sherry Silk. “We are very fortunate to have him as a board member, supporter and friend.”

The Wendy Albano Feral Cat Patio at HSTB’s Animal Health Center houses the Society’s acclaimed Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return (TNVR) program, which has helped decrease the cat euthanasia rate in Hillsborough County by 46% in the past five years. Albano, who owned six cats, was a staunch supporter of programs promoting spay/neuter and affordable wellness services for cats in Tampa Bay.

Photo credits: Ali Darvish (unless otherwise noted)

See pictures from the Grand Opening Ceremony