by Brian Fischler
Tony Award-winning actress puts the needs of others center stage.
ernadette Peters is internationally renowned
for her critically acclaimed work onstage.
However, her tireless work rescuing animals
and teaching blind children to read is even
more impressive than the entertainment she
has provided to millions. This July, Peters will bring Broadway
Barks to Broadway for its 17th year. This event has helped 200
dogs and cats find loving homes, and each year Broadway’s
biggest stars come out to lend their support.
“I have loved animals since I was a little girl. We lost our Golden
Retriever 17 years ago, and we went to a shelter to adopt a dog.
That is when I saw how overcrowded the shelters in this country
are. I saw how many great animals were at the shelter and how
much help they needed. That is when Broadway Barks was
born,” explains Peters. Since the inception of Broadway Barks,
the situation has improved. “Things at the shelters have gotten
better, but there is still room for improvement. I will not be happy
until all the shelters in this country are no kill shelters.”
Mirroring her love of animals is her love for children.
Broadway Barks partnered with Main Line Animal Rescue to
create Braille Tails, a program that converts books into braille
for children nationwide. Jill Rappaport did a phenomenal story
about a group that brings their Pit Bulls to a school for the
blind for pet therapy. The story really piqued my interest, so we
decided to put two of the books into braille for the children to
enjoy,” shares Peters.
“It was such a hit,” she says. “Ninety percent of blind children
cannot read because either there are not enough teachers
of braille or books have not been transcribed into braille. We
decided to take books that dealt with animal rescue, have them
transcribed into braille and send them to schools for the blind
around the country. No group should ever fall through the cracks
when it comes to reading. Reading is such an important part in
brain development—to be able to hear the words and the story
in your own voice; it is something I am very proud to be able to
provide and be a part of.”
Peters is not done there. She hits the road through rescue
road trips. “Bill Smith of Main Line Animal Rescue asked me,
‘Can we auction you off?’ People go with me to the city shelter,
and we pull dogs to take to Main Line. I told Bill, ‘You can auction
me off as many times as you want,’” laughs Peters.
This deep love of animals does not come without a cost.