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Musician combines loves of performing and pets to support SPCA Tampa Bay

Colleen Cherry wrote 60 songs in a week and raised $1,440 for the local shelter.
Credit: colleen cherry

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Eleanor Rigby joined Colleen Cherry’s home in January. The little dog was adopted from the SPCA of Tampa Bay.

Her name? Yes, it’s rocker-related.

“All of my family‘s pets are named after Beatles songs,” she said with a chuckle. “It all just worked out.”

Her parent’s dog is named after Abbey Road. Colleen has always loved two things: animals and music. She combined her passions during the COVID-19 partial shutdown to help raise funds for the SPCA.

“It just came to me one day when I was at work,” she explained. “I was like, ‘I can write songs about people‘s pets on the ukulele. That won’t take very long.’”

She decided to ask for a $5 donation from pet owners for each personalized song. Colleen got background information on the pet’s name, likes and dislikes, and mannerisms. She wasn’t sure if she’d get many takers.

Instead, she got flooded with requests.

“I set a goal for $500 thinking that maybe people would do it but had a lot of takers and wrote over 60 songs in one week,” she said. “It just kind of made sense because people love their pets right and everybody’s dog and cat is the best dog or cat in the world so there is kind of endless inspiration for music.”

Colleen raised $1,440 in one week writing songs. She wrote songs for each of David Jenkins’ three dogs, Ygritte, Scout, and Arya, titled Weird Sisters. She wrote another for her friend Kara’s cat, Frank.

Colleen’s songs are posted on the SPCA Tampa Bay Facebook page and have been viewed hundreds of times.

“I saw Colleen post about her fundraiser for SPCA, and jumped at the opportunity to support it. I am well aware of Colleen's (sometimes silly) songwriting prowess, and loved clicking through to listen to each of her unique pet songs as they debuted,” Kara Gold wrote in an email. Colleen also helped Kara get her first ukulele. “Not only did she help me find this perfect-for-me instrument, but she taught me to play and learn to strengthen my skills independently. Without opportunities for live performance, the quarantine has had me, and many other artists, starving for a creative outlet. Having this instrument has truly helped to keep me sane while stuck at home.”

The music and the mission are helping. SPCA Tampa Bay hosted a Virtual Walk for pets and raised over $67,000 to help offset the lack of regular funding due to COVID-19. Colleen says donations have been steady but not all of the staff can come to the building for safety purposes. The SPCA is still accepting donations through May 15.

The music has helped uplift pet lovers in Tampa Bay.

“It’s been really fulfilling,” said Colleen, who even wrote a song for her parent’s beloved Abbey Road. “They all sounded different and they all kind of match the animals’ unique personality.

“Colleen wrote about my dog, Olive for her SPCA fundraiser,” wrote Marlee Holt in an email. “Olive passed away in the middle of March at 13.5 years old. I adopted her from SPCA Tampa Bay when she was a puppy and I was 19 years old. She was my familiar and best friend from that day on. She was with me for every milestone of my adult life -- kids, divorce, marriage, and figuring out the world in general. Colleen’s song means the world to me and my family as a loving tribute to the girl who was way more than “just a dog” but a best friend, companion, and sister.”

Along with serving as the Volunteer Program Manager for SPCA Tampa Bay, Colleen is an actor & Artistic Associate with Jobsite Theater. She plans to continue writing songs for pet owners. She takes requests on her Facebook page.

Her website is currently under construction. Last week, she helped host an online day of giving for Jobsite Theater - #GiveJobsite2020 . For the week leading up to it she gave mini ukulele concerts via Facebook Live and the artistic board and core artists submitted story-telling videos about the company, favorite shows, and fond memories. It raised over $30,000 surpassing the previous year by $10,000.

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