Grizzly was a cute, fluffy cat who reached out between the bars of his cage at the pound and touched Roxannie Harvey’s heart with his paw. Grizzly was in line to be euthanized when Harvey adopted him. He lived another five years and died at age 15 because he was given a chance.

There are countless cats like Grizzly in need of a home. Harvey’s experience with Grizzly was one reason she and her husband, Richard Harvey, started Freedom’s Last Chance, a sanctuary for homeless animals.

“The name comes from being a volunteer at the pound, and you see all these cats reaching out to you and it just hit me one day, this is their last chance; freedom’s last chance,” said Harvey. “If I did not take them, they would likely die.”

The Harveys have rescued animals for 32 years. In 2008, they created the nonprofit to provide a sanctuary for animals who would likely be euthanized.

They try to fulfill that mission on their 5-acre property for cats. They also offer free spay and neuter vouchers to dog and cat owners, as well as emergency pet food assistance.

“We don’t want you to surrender you pet,” Harvey said. “That’s the thing, we’re trying to keep the animals where they belong. We’re trying to keep them with the people. We’re trying to keep them from being abandoned and we’re trying to keep them from breeding.”

The eighth annual Fur Ball fundraiser for Freedom’s Last Chance is April 27 at the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center in Wirtz. Tickets are $25, which includes appetizers, dinner, music by The Kings, a cash bar, a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction.

All proceeds benefit Freedom’s Last Chance’s programs.

“If you can’t make it on the 27th, we accept donations for medical and food,” Harvey said. “If you can’t do that, you can donate food. We also do a yard sale twice a year to raise money. People can also come out and visit with the animals and bring them gifts, they love that.”

Running a sanctuary is an emotional journey. Right now, the Harveys are caring for cats that range from kittens to 24 years old. All are ready to be adopted.

“You have the good days of saving lives,” Harvey said. “Then, you have the bad days of letting go because they die. That’s the hard part. Right now, I have 25 cats past 10 years old, and one cat that is 24. Any minute something is going to happen to one and that’s a day, a week, a month you struggle and cry and you don’t think you’re going to make it. Then you recover and it happens again.”

Harvey said the emotional struggles harden her resolve to continue Freedom’s Last Chance and its mission of stopping unwanted breeding and helping pet owners in need. For now, she said the need remains great as the number of unloved and unwanted animals continues to grow.

Tickets for the annual Fur Ball are available at Print-n-Paper, at www.freedomslastchancesml.org and at the door on April 27.