Symen the Russian Blue just celebrated his 11th birthday with a party in the Public Garden. His owner Nora Babich, a Back Bay resident, has been throwing birthday parties for her cat for five years. What started as a fun idea for a party has turned into a tradition that gives back. After three years of being spoiled with toys as gifts, Babich decided that she would ask for donations to the Animal Rescue League of Boston in lieu of gifts (but, of course, people still bring Symen toys too).
“At first it was just to get people together,” Babich said. As a pilates instructor, she has lots of clients she invites, as well as her circle of friends, and asks them to bring spouses, children, and friends. “About 30 to 40 people show up,” she said, including her pharmacist and her next-door neighbor. “It’s a pretty broad network of people,” she said. And then there are the curious minds in the park wondering what the commotion is all about. Babich said there are always a few people in the park with their pets who stop by to join the fun.
“It’s also a way for me to give back to my clients,” she said, as she buys all the food, decorations, and beverages for the party each year. All food and beverages are purchased locally as well, she added.
She doesn’t forget about the entertainment, either. Party guests participate in a Symen trivia game, where they fill out a one-page questionnaire and the winner receives a free pilates class.
Babich said that $300 was raised for the Animal Rescue League this year, which was collected through Facebook. “Some people donate $5, some donate $100,” she said. “A little goes a long way.”
“It’s a way to get the neighborhood involved,” she said. “It’s a lot of meet and greets because of that party.” People are encouraged to bring their animals as well, and while mostly dogs come, she said a few cats have come in past years. “Symen is so well-behaved; he sits in his little stroller,” she said. “He gets along with people—he’s like a dog.”
Symen moved to Boston from California with Babich on the fourth of July eight years ago, and Babich said she’s really become involved in the Back Bay neighborhood since then. The party is just another way for her to get together with friends old and new and celebrate summer and animals.
“What’s so cool about the party is the the people who show up are all nice people,” Babich said. “It’s a happy, nice party, which I enjoy.”