Aroma Park cat rescue

Karen Hemza, left, and Art Morrical, longtime neighbors in St. Anne, stand in front of the new Sunrise Center Cat Rescue at 3306 Waldron Road in Aroma Park, which will also house Furry Friend Spay & Neuter Clinic. Thanks to a $710,000 gift from Morrical, Hemza's work with animals, most notably horses and cats, will expand to the rescue and clinic that aims to open by the end of the year. READ MORE

AROMA PARK — Karen Hemza has made it her life’s mission to work with and care for animals, most notably horses and cats.

Art Morrical, who has been her neighbor for more than 25 years in unincorporated St. Anne, had the means to make Hemza’s mission become an even greater reality than she could have ever imagined.

Thanks to a $700,000 gift from Morrical to Hemza, the two have combined to not only create Sunrise Center Cat Rescue, at 3306 Waldron Road in Aroma Park, but also establish Furry Friends Spay & Neuter Clinic, within the same building.

The above figure is correct.

To date, Morrical, born and raised in the St. Anne area and a 1978 graduate of Kankakee Eastridge High School, who has since gone on to gain considerable wealth through early investment in the crypto coin currency, known as Hex, has donated more than $700,000 to Hemza to establish the dual-purpose location within Aroma Park.

The goal is to have the location up and running prior to the end of the year.

Area veterinarian Dr. Diane Fedrow will oversee the “reduced cost” spay-and-neuter clinic for dogs and cats.

“There is a big, big need for a clinic like this,” said Fedrow, who only recently opened her vet clinic at 711 Alma Parkway in Bourbonnais. “To have something like this in our county is very important.”

Fedrow noted the cost for the spay and neuter procedures will be in the range of 50 percent less than what it would cost at a vet’s office.

‘MAKE-SHIFT’ SHELTER NO MORE

For a large portion of her adult life, Hemza has taken care of these animals — up to 90 cats and 35 horses — on her family’s 65-acre farm in rural St. Anne.

Keenly aware of the large and growing problems of stray cats and dogs wandering throughout the area, she has searched for ways to reduce those numbers. Of course, the only way to impact that situation is “fixing” the animals.

Many people do not have the resources to accomplish that and the problem simply multiplies. A cat can have up to six litters of kittens on a yearly basis, so it is easy to see how the cat problem can rapidly grow.

A lover of cats himself, Morrical, whose cat named Hexius is constantly by his side, said when he learned of Hemza’s plan, he simply told her to find that location and he would take care of the expense.

He adopted Hex from Hemza a few years ago. The neighbors have been friends since.

When she realized Morrical would back up his words with cash, she went out as instructed and found a building. She located a vacant building that once housed an air-conditioning business, and he wrote the check for $300,000 to cover the costs. He had since armed her with another $400,000 to begin plans for transforming the location into a vet clinic and a cat sanctuary.

Cats will also be adopted out of the sanctuary.

Much work needs to be done and the goal is to begin work in short order.

Henza has been operating what she described as a “make-shift” shelter on her farm for the past 15 or so years. Sunrise Farm is actually a horse training and therapy horse riding business.

She has always wanted more and she appears she will soon have it.

“If someone would have told me that we would soon be having this in Aroma Park, I would have called them a liar,” she said with a large smile. “I’ve always been scraping and scrounging. For this to drop in my lap is amazing.”

The clinic portion of the location will be open to anyone. It is not income-restricted.

NEED TO ‘GIVE BACK’ TO AREA

Morrical, who attended Kankakee Community College for one year after high school graduation, earned an electrical engineering degree from Bradley University in 1982. He then earned a master’s degree in complicated science from North Central College in Naperville.

Morrical is the son of the late Victor and Helen Morrical. Victor was described by Art as a blue-collar worker. He was a line worker at the former Roper plant here.

“I’ve always wanted to give back, and I love cats to death,” he said.

Morrical said the $700,000 he donated is not the end of the road. He said there is more money to come as he wants to see this site remain in operation for the long term.

“This is going to be a forever place,” he said, adding he plans to set up a trust fund to sustain it long after he departs this world.

“Cats aren’t going anywhere, so this place is not going anywhere. This will be here helping our rescue community,” he said.

The extreme size of the donation makes most people take a giant step back — Hemza included. But for Morrical, it simply doesn’t faze him.

“The amount of money to everyone else is important,” he said. :To me, this was the right thing to do and it was the right place to do it. ... This will hold a lot of cats.”

Hemza said people notice the cats walking around houses or in alleys, but really don’t give much of a thought to them. But the animals, she said, need to be cared for and despite what may be good intentions of some residents, houses or backyards cannot be turned in pet sanctuaries.

“This is a dream come true,” she said. “We are sharing a dream come true. I never thought this would be attainable.”

Dr. Fedrow is hoping to have a couple doctors at the site to take care of the clinic’s medical needs.

“He believes in the cause and this is fantastic,” she said.

One might wonder if Fedrow is taking business away from her own clinic or from veterinarians around the region.

She said she is not. She said there is plenty of spaying and neutering business to go around.

She said there are waiting lists throughout the area. It is not uncommon for a pet owner to wait a month or more to have their pet’s procedure completed.

“I told Karen I would do the best I can,” she said. “It was not a tough sell to get me on board.”

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.