Click on a recipient's name to learn more about their achievement.

Champion Award

Honors an individual in the public or non-profit sector who has faithfully served and made life better for tens of thousands of animals and people in western Massachusetts.

Cheryl Coakley-Rivera (2011)

Cheryl Coakley-Rivera is a Massachusetts State Representative (served 1999 - 2014) who passionately and convincingly led the fight to prevent the unnecessary de-vocalization of dogs and cats. She has argued against legislation that calls for breed-specific bans and has been recognized for her exemplary efforts to help end greyhound racing in Massachusetts.

Officer Christine Allenberg & Sergeant Roy Sutton (2012)

As specially commissioned officers of the Massachusetts State Police, Officers Sutton and Allenberg share a combined length of service of more than 60 years. They have faithfully served and made life better for thousands of animals and people in western Massachusetts by investigating every reported case of suspected cruelty or neglect in their expansive geographic area.

Senator James Welch (2019)

Senator James Welch was the main sponsor of legislation to allocate $100,000 to the Mass Animal Fund via a budget amendment to pay for the spay/neuter and vaccinations of animals in animal control facilities or who live with families who can’t afford the services.

Allison Strong (2020)

Allison was commended for her work as an animal control officer for the Town of Agawam as well as a veterinary technician. She is known for her compassion in the toughest of circumstances and for being a source of guidance for the proper care and treatment of animals.

Stephanie Fahey (2021)

As a mental health clinician at the Hampden County Sheriff's Department, Stephanie was involved in the creation of the Emotional Support Division, which paired therapy dogs in training with staff members. Stephanie and her therapy dog partner Molly were honored for making way for change in corrections across the state.

Kim George (2022)

Kim George, founder of Kane's Krusade, was recognized for her hard work and dedication to her community. For more than 10 years, Kane's Krusade has bridged the gap between pet families in need and solutions. They connect people with resources, advocate for better outcomes like helping find pet-inclusive housing, and keep pets together with their families.

Jessecah Gower (2023)

Jessecah was recognized for going above and beyond her role as Animal Control Officer and Animal Health Inspector for the Town of West Springfield. She began her career in animal welfare as a volunteer at Thomas J. O’Connor, where she was then hired as their Volunteer Coordinator. Jesse doesn’t just support her town, but the humane community as a whole.

Corporate Leadership Award

Honors a business or its corporate foundation, of any size, that demonstrates outstanding commitment to improve the lives of animals through employee giving, volunteerism, or partnership.

VCA Animal Hospitals (2023)

VCA is a network of hometown veterinary hospitals that were honored for their support of animal sheltering. VCA Animal Hospitals are heavily involved with their local humane societies, including Dakin, to promote adoption through their presence on social media. They have also held numerous food and supply donation drives to help feed animals in need.

Distinguished Animal Award

Recognizes an exceptional animal (and handler when applicable) whose extraordinary devotion to people has proved transformative or lifesaving in challenging or exceptional circumstances.

K9 Dakota (2011)

K-9 Dakota was the first and only accelerant detection canine with Springfield’s Arson & Bomb Squad. Dakota retired after 12 years of service, making him one of the oldest working dogs in the country. Near the end of his career, Dakota was involved in the investigation of a church fire that drew national attention. His distinguished career began following his adoption from an animal shelter.

Canine Lilly (2011)

Lilly, a rescued pit bull, demonstrated her strength, intelligence, and loyalty in the face of an oncoming train. Just after midnight on May 3, 2012, Lilly's owner collapsed on the railroad tracks in the path of an oncoming westbound freight train. Lilly pulled the unconscious woman to safety just moments before the train reached them.

Canine Seeger (2012)

Seeger, a Fidelco guide dog, earned Adalberto (Joe) Velez’s unwavering trust on June 1, 2011, as the tornado that ripped through western MA made its way into downtown Springfield. While the EF-3 storm bore down on Joe’s Maple Street apartment, Seeger led Joe to safety.

Officer Joel Wun and K9 Xito (2019)

Officer Joel Wun and his 6-year-old male German Shepherd partner, K9 Xito worked together to keep the Ludlow jail safe for inmates, staff, and visitors. They also volunteer together in the community by participating in demonstrations for the Boys & Girls Club and other local causes.

Officer Eric Blair & K9 Officer Mr. Warner (2021)

K9 Officer Frankie and his partner Officer Eric Blair were honored for their work in many seizures of illegal firearms and drugs with the Springfield Police Department. They have also participated in the search and rescue of lost children and elderly citizens.

State Trooper David Stucenski and K9 Frankie (2022)

Sergeant David Stucenski started working with K9 Frankie when he was only 15 months old. Over the many years they worked together K9 Frankie and Officer Stucenski had a strong reputation for their work with the Massachusetts State Police. Tragically this year, K-9 Frankie, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois, became the first ever K9 killed in the line of duty after he was gunned down by a fugitive who had barricaded himself inside a house in a stand-off with police. K9 Frankie showed incredible loyalty and dedication, giving his life in the line of duty to keep his community safe.

Officer Matthew Llewelyn & K9 Frank (2023)
Greenfield Police Officer Matthew Llewelyn and K9 Frank were honored for their work to help defuse active behavioral health crises. As a comfort dog, Frank’s job is to deescalate mental health crises to which the department responds. Community Officers and their comfort dogs play a crucial role in enhancing the well-being of the communities they serve.

Frances M. Wells Award

This award is given to an individual recognized for notable contributions to the health and welfare of animals.

Dario Politella (2011)

US Army Veteran and Professor of Journalism at UMass Dario Politella served as a board member for 18 years, joining the Greenfield Animal Shelter in 1983. The Greenfield Animal Shelter grew and evolved over the decades to eventually become Dakin Humane Society.

Barbara Skelly (2012)

Barbara Skelly was awarded the Frances M. Wells Humane Award in 2012.

Paige & Lorie Pinney (2019)

Paige Pinney and Lorie Page were recognized for their work as foster caregivers at Dakin, providing a safe space and urgent medical care to 74 cats, including 33 neonatal kittens in just over two years.

Meghan Delaney (2020)
Meg Delaney has been a veterinary technician at Dakin Humane Society for seven years and was cited for her selfless compassion and dedication to the care and rescue of animals, particularly vulnerable neonatal kittens. Meghan provides veterinary care for all shelter animals and oversees the medical care in Dakin's Kitten Intensive Care Unit (KICU).
Anna Stetler (2021)

Anna was honored for going to exceptional lengths to humanely trap cats living in outdoor colonies as part of Dakin's volunteer-run Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program, the Kitten Street Team. Her persistence and tireless efforts in the face of extreme weather, difficult terrain, and hard-to-catch feral cats have been an inspiration to many.

Robin Plourde (2022)

Robin was recognized for founding Whip City Animal Sanctuary with her husband, Kerry. Whip City is a sanctuary for farm animals located in Westfield. The sanctuary offers a safe place for farm animals that come from abusive situations and kill pen auctions.

Marina Bayeva (2023)

Marina was recognized for being a true champion for animals across the world. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Marina started working with various shelters in Dnipro, Ukraine, her birthplace and home to many family members, to compile a list of their needs. She also set up a nonprofit, Help Animals Survive the War in Ukraine, which raised nearly $55,000, for several shelters in the Dnipro region and has assisted shelters in procuring grant funding.

Woodbury Philanthropy Award

Honors a leader in the community whose contributions are transformational and who demonstrates extraordinary dedication with a remarkable sense of stewardship in sharing time, talent and resources.

Rarie Dye (2011)

Rarie Dye was awarded the Woodbury Philanthropy Award for her generosity that helped shape Dakin into the organization it is today.

Mary Ann Cofrin (2012)
Hampshire County businesswoman and philanthropist Mary Ann Cofrin had a vision of a community that could guarantee the placement of adoptable animals and helped fund the formation of Dakin’s behavioral services programs.
Mary Almeida (2019)

Mary was an avid dog lover and supported a variety of animal causes statewide. It was her commitment to support her local brick and mortar animal shelter that she was most passionate about. She believed in the importance of having an accessible facility within the community and believed in the invaluable service that comes with it and a place for animals to go in their time of need.

Liz Collins (2020)

Liz Collins has been an outspoken advocate for animals for many years. She was honored for her incredible work serving as the Secretary of the Board of Directors at Dakin, volunteering as a greeter at the shelter's adoption center, and her work with Home Again, Dakin's thrift store.

Sue & Chris Mastrionni (2021)
The Mastrionni’s dedication and forward-thinking to recognize future areas of need for both people and animals has been instrumental in sustaining and building key community programs. They both selflessly share their time and talents with Dakin and other organizations within our community, including the Rotary Club of Springfield and the Gray House.
Mary Lou Rice (2022)

Mary Lou was honored for selflessly sharing her time and talent volunteering for Dakin for over six years, logging more than 2,000 hours. She has taken on several roles to help the organization, including being a mentor trainer for new volunteers learning how to care for dogs.

Jerry Marchand (2023)

Jerry was honored for his extraordinary dedication as a volunteer and foster caregiver at Dakin for over 13 years. His focus has been on felines, from adult cats struggling with fear to orphaned neonatal kittens. His round-the-clock care includes hand-feeding and administering medications. In his time with Dakin, Jerry has fostered over 650 animals.

Youth Award

Honors a hero, 16 years or younger, who through the display of extraordinary care and compassion makes a difference in the life of an animal and makes the world a kinder and gentler place.

Colin Cussly (2011)

Eleven-year-old Colin received a Youth Award for his work caring for cats and helping out with special projects at a local cat sanctuary.

Chloe, Sarah, & Zachary Otterbeck (2012)

Siblings Chloe, Sarah, and Zachary, ages 8-14, unfortunately witnessed a shocking case of animal neglect and abandonment near their home. The trio didn't hesitate to help the animals and get them connected to the care they needed. They even organized a fundraising campaign to pay for the animals' veterinary care.

Lillian Barden (2019)

Lillian received a Youth Award for their dedicated work in foster care, helping five litters and 17 kittens. They donated their time to care for and nurture the kittens until each kitten was strong and healthy enough to find adoptive homes.

Ryker Bauer (2020)

Ryker was honored for his innovative project, The Pawsome Box Adventure. Boxes were filled with soft blankets, treats, and toys before being delivered to over 100 animal organizations in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

Anna Banas-Chen (2021)
Anna was honored for channeling her love of animals (cats especially) into writing. She authored the book Rainbow the Cat Makes New Friends. Her book teaches young children how to overcome shyness. Anna donates all profits from her book to Dakin Humane Society, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and Little Free Library.
Marley Dixon (2022)

15-year-old Marley was honored for showing extraordinary dedication to the well-being of animals as a member of the youth executive board at the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary. In her spare time, she writes testimony to lawmakers on bills to protect exotic animals.

Milton Bradley Elementary 2022-2023 First Grade Students

A group of young students were honored for their impressive effort to help animals during their hands-on “Good Citizen” project-based learning experience. The first-graders chose to help animals by collecting supplies, sharing lessons over the school announcements, and learning how to care for pets.

Janet Wilder Dakin Lifetime Achievement Award

Judy Smith (2011)

Judy Smith was with Dakin from its roots as Friends of Amherst’s Stray Animals in the 1980’s. She worked alongside Janet Wilder Dakin to improve the lives of homeless animals in the northern counties of Western Massachusetts. Judy’s retirement from the board in 2011 marked the end of a long volunteer career that helped position Dakin as the pre-eminent animal charity in the Pioneer Valley.

Doris Holden (2012)

Amherst resident Doris Holden became involved with Dakin in its earliest days alongside founder Janet Wilder Dakin. Doris donated her time as a member of the organization's Board of Directors.

Leslie Harris (2019)

Leslie has dedicated her life to working tirelessly in animal welfare. She transformed a small local animal shelter into a nationally recognized organization and set an example for others to follow. Under her leadership as executive director from 2001 - 2015, Dakin Humane Society adopted core values centered around compassion, innovation, and integrity. Her dedication and vision made Dakin a leader in animal welfare, with values that emphasize respect and kindness for both animals and people. Before Dakin, Leslie served as the shelter manager for Friends of Amherst Stray Animals in 1995.

Carmine DiCenso (2022)

Carmine Dicenso was honored for dedicating nearly 24 years of his life and professional career to the betterment of animals. His career began at the MSPCA and he continued as Executive Director at Providence Animal Rescue League and Dakin Humane Society. He served on numerous boards, including The New England Federation of Humane Societies as a member, officer, and advisor. He acted as a representative of our community on a national level as a board member of the Association of Animal Welfare Advancement, to which he brought the most progressive animal welfare practices.