For the love of cats

Oksana Borodyanskaya, 22, a communication studies major in her junior year, sings and plays keyboard for Doctor Hoogo at this year's Meow Fest on Oct. 26. She was one of the organizers for this year's Halloween-themed Meow Fest.
Oksana Borodyanskaya, 22, a communication studies major in her junior year, sings and plays keyboard for Doctor Hoogo at this year’s Meow Fest on Oct. 26. She was one of the organizers for this year’s Halloween-themed Meow Fest. Photo Credit: Luis Rivas / Features editor

On a Friday night on Marlborough Court it’s so quiet you can hear the wind blow through the trees on a cul de sac in West Hills. Little do the neighbors know that a music festival dedicated to raising money for cats was about to take place.

The festival, dubbed Meow Fest, was created by Bryce Wild, 20, a Pre-Veterinary Science student at Pierce College, in 2010. Wild is a self-admitted cat lover, an owner of five cats.

For this year’s Meow Fest there was a Halloween theme with spider web, tombstone decoration, huge pictures of cat heads throughout the backyard of Bryce’s uncle’s house and most of the guests dressed in costume. Horror movies were projected on a white sheet in the backyard.

Oksana Borodyanskaya, 22, a communication studies major in her junior year at CSUN, is the lead singer and keyboardist for Doctor Hoogo, the opening band. The group was inspired by the british science fiction series Doctor Who. Borodyanskaya dressed as a beast, a character of the show.

She met Wild through mutual friends and helped organize the Halloween festival.

“She said she was doing fundraisers for cat shelters and she’s always looking for bands so if I ever wanted to help organize these things with her, I could always help. So I started helping her with that,” Borodyanskaya said.

When Wild was a high school student, she contributed to Students for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (SETA), a student club that mimics PETA. She took part in a “Rock Benefit for Elephants” where local bands performed at a pizza parlor and all the proceeds sponsored an elephant for a year.

But she wanted to create a personal connection with the animal.

So, when Wild found Heaven on Earth Society for Animals, an animal shelter located in Van Nuys, she received the personal connection she wanted. It was her work with the shelter that inspired Wild to create Meow Fest, a nonprofit organization that raises money for cats.

“It is a fundraising event I put together, basically, to celebrate cats,” Wild said with a smile.

Meow Fest is not like any normal non-profit organization for animals. It takes a new approach to helping cats without a home. Local bands, artists and everyone at the event, from all ages, come together for the love of music and helping cats. All the proceeds from the show’s entrance fee are donated to Heaven on Earth Society for Animals (HESA).

Wild raised $500 at Meow Fest’s first night and realized immediately she wanted to continue doing this for the shelter. The event took place in Wild’s back yard.

Meow Fest not only provides music but there is a table for arts and crafts. It is filled with cat themed crafts, cat designed cupcakes, buttons and stickers featuring two cats shaped into a heart as the Meow Fest logo.

Katie Oh, 17, has attended all nine Meow Fests in the past two years.

“They are really fun,” Oh said. “Everyone is having a lot of fun and there is a lot of people. This may sound corny but (it’s) a good way to make friends. Everyone is there to have a good time and listen to music and know they are supporting a good cause.”

Not having a set-in-stone location never stopped Wild from doing Meow Fest. Locations went from her  grandmother’s house to a yoga studio and how her uncle’s house.

Since Meow Fest’s first show in 2010 they have donated $3,203 to Heaven on Earth Society for Animals.

“I never thought I would still be putting them together,” Wild said. “Three years later, I am still putting this together and raising this money.”

Meow Fest is already not the average kind of non-profit organization for cats but neither is the shelter for HESA. It is a cage-free sanctuary with 10-15 cats walking freely per room. They also take in unfavorable cats with medical issues or elder cats that have nowhere else to go. HESA gives them the most comfortable home and life they can have. The donations help fund neuter efforts, adoptions, rescues, food and keep the shelter running.

Melissa Godlash is the volunteer coordinator and board of director who works with Wild for Heaven on Earth Society for Animals. Godlash believes fundraising is the most important factor a volunteer can do for Heaven on Earth.

“What she does is such a huge amount of impact. It’s so appreciated,” Godlash said. “Not only does she raise funds for us but she also helps Heaven on Earth as a volunteer. It’s incredible.”

Wild always feels really excited after a Meow Fest. Being able to give money to the shelter is an exciting feeling for Wild.

“I don’t expect to get anything out of it because it brings me happiness,” Wild said. “I never take money from it, I am always putting money into it. I love what Meow Fest has become and I love putting shows together and bringing everyone together for such a good cause.”

This year’s Halloween-themed Meow Fest was a collaborative effort with music and arts collective Mountair organizer John Connolly. Half of the profits from Meow Fest will be going into the opening of a venue where Meow Fest and Mountair can host shows.

Mountair is an all-ages art and music collective, which Wild is a member of, that organizes shows throughout the LA area but specifically in the San Fernando Valley. It was started as a response to all the creative people in the LA area who couldn’t get shows anywhere, Connolly said.

Once the venue opens up Meow Fest will forever have a home at Mountair, leaving its location-hopping history.

“It’s really amazing how I am here,” Wild said. “I have been a volunteer for so long. It’s really changed my life: the shelter and Meow Fest. It’s one of the things I hold dearest to my heart… it’s really an honor to spread the word around for the shelter and help them out.”