Helen Woodward Animal Center celebrates its 50th anniversary with a community celebration on Saturday

The Helen Woodward Animal Center of Rancho Santa Fe is hosting a community celebration for its 50th anniversary from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the center lodge, 6461 El Apajo Road.

The festivities include free tours of the center, meetings with the center’s “animal ambassadors”, games, children’s crafts and face painting. Pizzas, snow cones and drinks will be sold.

The association bears the name of its founder, Helen Whittier Woodward. In 1972, Woodward, a longtime Del Mar resident, worked with friends to create a place that would encompass comprehensive animal care and public education programs. She led the association until her death in 1984. Since then, the center has become known worldwide for its work in helping animals and people, which goes beyond adoption services.

The center estimates that more than 945,000 adults and children have participated in the nonprofit’s humane education, therapeutic riding and pet therapy services.

The 12-acre center has placed more than 65,000 orphaned animals into homes over its 50-year history and has helped facilitate the placement of more than 19 million animals in conjunction with approximately 4,000 Blue Buffalo Home 4 the Holidays global partner shelters since the program began in 1999, according to center spokeswoman Jessica Gercke.

The center offers community and educational programs ranging from AniMeals, which provides pet food for homebound seniors throughout San Diego County, in partnership with groups such as Meals on Wheels, Humane Education and Pet Encounter Therapy, Therapeutic Horseback Riding and Pets Without Walls, which provides health services and pet food to homeless community members.

The campus includes a pet hospital and an equine and large animal hospital, as well as a pet boarding facility.

The center offers free workshops for animal welfare staff and volunteers as part of its internationally acclaimed program, called “The Business of Saving Lives”.

In addition to parking on the lot next to the pavilion, there will be additional parking at the nearby Plaza and at the Horizon Church lot on El Apajo Road.

To see the center’s 50th anniversary timeline, take a virtual tour of the center, or share memories about the center, visit animalcenter.org/50th-anniversary.

Benjamin M. Yerger