FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Before beginning a career in professional football, New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder was enrolled in a pre-veterinary program at the University of Colorado to pursue his passion of caring for animals.
"I was pre-vet in college and that was something I really loved doing and spent a lot of time volunteering in animal shelters," Solder said. "I loved the work and I got to know a lot about taking care of animals."
On Tuesday, Solder visited the Mansfield Animal Shelter (MAS) to personally thank many of its volunteers and raise awareness for animal volunteerism through the Patriots Charitable Foundation's Celebrate Volunteerism initiative.
"This visit is near and dear to me," Solder said of Tuesday's stop at MAS. "I currently have two dogs, a Saint Bernard and a Newfoundland. I love dogs."
Solder toured the animal shelter, met with volunteers and assisted with the care of two rescue dogs.
"It's a great opportunity for me to be here and learn about the Mansfield Animal Shelter," Solder said. "[These volunteers] deserve a round of applause for their tireless dedication to the shelter and I am proud to be here on behalf of the Kraft family and the Patriots Charitable Foundation to recognize them."
In addition to recognizing the shelter's volunteers, Solder and the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation honored Millbury resident Joy Chambers, who was chosen as the Patriots Difference Maker of the Week for her outstanding volunteer efforts through her nonprofit animal rescue organization in Worcester, Broken Tail Rescue.
"Joy started Broken Tail Rescue a few years ago with the goal of saving as many animals as she could," Solder said outside the shelter during Tuesday's ceremony to honor Chambers. "As the president of the organization, she has always put the needs of the rescue before her own. Joy works countless hours transporting, caring for and saving animals. She is one who people call when they no longer can care for their animals."
The Patriots Charitable Foundation presented Chambers with a Patriots Difference Maker of the Week medal and a Patriots football autographed by Solder. Ana Villella, president of the Mansfield Shelter Friends (MSF) and a 17-year volunteer at MAS, appreciated the Patriots' support Tuesday.
"This is really exciting for us," Villella said on behalf of the volunteers of MAS. "We are really excited [Nate Solder] is here."
Villella thanked the Patriots Charitable Foundation for recognizing animal volunteerism and honoring Chambers as the team's Difference Maker.
"I think it's great [the Patriots] honor volunteers because the reason a lot of places make a difference is because people volunteer," she said. "It makes a difference in the lives of these animals when people volunteer, so thank you for honoring those volunteers."
Foxborough Animal Control Officer Sue Thibedeau, who spends every morning helping out at the Mansfield Animal Shelter, said events like these are rewarding because they help animals find new homes.
"It's a treat having [Nate Solder here] and very good of him to take the time to come out. That certainly adds to the attraction of getting people to notice the shelter," Thibedeau said. "I think it's awesome."
Thibedeau added recognizing volunteers for their work at places like the Mansfield Animal Shelter is extremely important and well deserved.
"They are the labor force," Thibedeau said of the volunteers. "They bring energy and ideas and manpower to care for these animals and find them permanent homes."
Tuesday's visit to the animal shelter, located at 175 Fruit St., Mansfield, was part of the Patriots Charitable Foundation's ongoing Celebrate Volunteerism initiative, which recognizes deserving volunteers and encourages Patriots fans to become lifelong volunteers. To learn more about the ongoing Celebrate Volunteerism initiative and upcoming events, visit www.patriots.com/community.