1FUR1’s start began years ago when animal-lover Michelle Djonova was volunteering with her dog, Ripley, by visiting care facilities for the elderly with mental disabilities. That’s where a spark was made with a woman living with dementia whose memory reset every 5 min. Eventually, each pet therapy visit seemed to make her happier and she started remembering Ripley’s name for much longer amounts of time. An improvement of her memory also began to show as she began recalling her childhood and the experiences she had with her own dog. Subsequently, an idea was born to create an organization unlike any other that helps animals heal people in need. In March of 2014, Michelle was able to make this idea a reality and 1FUR1 Foundation was born. With hard work, determination, and a band of passionate volunteers, the first few months were spent on the legal and tax-related sides of obtaining a 501(c)3 status. After those initial months, 1FUR1 really took off, gaining volunteers, sponsors and fans who support 1FUR1’s mission in rescuing struggling animal assisted programs part of like-minded nonprofits who are threatened by limited resources. There are many great organizations, but we try to help where help is most needed.
It was 1989 and I was a child living in my home country of Bulgaria. The wall had fallen, and the dark cloud of communism was beginning to lift. With this came the opportunity to move to America and experience a freedom we only had heard about. However, as always, freedom came with a cost. My mother moved to the United States to establish a foundation for us while I stayed behind with my grandparents. This process took almost five years until I was able to join my mother in Chicago. The concept of my mother leaving was difficult to grasp at that age and left me very confused, frustrated, and ultimately, depressed. To cheer me up, my grandfather got me a beautiful Collie named Ray. I quickly built a strong bond with Ray and his presence in my life had an amazing therapeutic effect. My bleak outlook on life began to brighten and I rediscovered pure joy. If not for Ray, I do not know how I would have survived this difficult time. And, throughout my life, animals have continued to help me overcome even the most trying of situations.