Liberty Middle School turned out for a Mardi Paws Parade to observe Mardi Gras and raise funds for local shelter animals. Benita Tunstill, school nurse and Student2Student sponsor, holds Penny, who reigned as Parade Princess. Gary Johnson, custodian at Liberty, drives the vehicle. CONTRIBUTED

Liberty’s Mardi Paws Parade raises funds for shelter animals

MADISON – Rex and Bacchus’ krewes may have boasted more elaborate floats, but Liberty Middle School students and faculty exemplified the mood during its Mardi Paws Parade.

The parade also supported a cause — raising funds for animals in local shelters. “Many dogs and cats that don’t have a place to call home. We can help these animals!” according to Liberty’s website.

Parade organizers asked students to donate money or pet supplies, like wet/dry food for dogs or cats, grooming equipment, kitty litter, leashes, collars and harnesses. Parade contacts continued to accept donations until Feb. 20.

Parade proceeds were split between an animal rescue organization in Madison and Athens-Limestone Animal Shelter.

The Student2Student or S2S group organized the parade, with assistance from Liberty 4H, a new club.

In the parade units, Benita Tunstill, school nurse and S2S sponsor, chaperoned Penny, who reigned as Parade Princess. Gary Johnson, Liberty custodian, drove the ATV with purple-and-green ‘crawdads’ on its hood.

Liberty’s clubs and organizations borrowed ‘buggies’ or shopping carts from Home Depot. For a fee, clubs or individuals transformed the bare carts into bold displays for Mardi Gras with the event’s signature purple and green, feathers, posters and other embellishments.

One group decorated a cart with a purple ‘skirt’ topped with layers of bows and holding a huge collection of balloons. School staff members Brandy Titsworth and Laura Honea dressed in purple and green with feather boas, while Student Resource Officer Bullington guarded a cart, bearing fleur-de-lis and happy/sad drama masks.

In a red costume, a person depicted “Mardi’s Marvelous Crawfish” in one cart and waved to spectators. Liberty Girls Soccer Team’s cart was transformed into a soccer goal, along with a mascot lion’s head, pawprints and Liberty seal.

School advisory classes obtained festive umbrellas, symbolic of New Orleans street marches, that parade participants decorated for a fee to benefit the animal shelters. Coach Laura Vines carried an orange-and-white Liberty umbrella lined with black feathers.

Wearing Bourbon Street regalia, Principal Shannon Brown chauffeured his Labrador Retriever, Molly, who was Parade Queen. Brown said the event was great experience for students. “I appreciate the hard work and thoughtfulness of the students to come up with a wonderful cause,” Brown said.

Student2Student involves students in grades 6-8 in raising awareness of incoming and departing Liberty students, especially in military families. Liberty 4H (with fourfold training involving “head, heart, hands and health”) is affiliated with the oldest and largest youth development organization that trains for leadership, citizenship and life skills.

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Digital version of The Madison Record – April 17, 2024

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