For the Love of Animals: Big Love Community Animal Outreach
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For the Love of Animals: Big Love Community Animal Outreach

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is first in a series called “For the Love of Animals,” about Brevard County animal rescue and support organizations. Look for ongoing coverage in our monthly collections, published on the first of each month. Click HERE to subscribe to our monthly collection launch newsletter to ensure our latest local stories land in your inbox.

People love pickleball, America’s fastest growing sport. Big Love Community Animal Outreach shares the passion for pickleball, in part because it will help the Space Coast animal rescue group raise funds.

The First Annual Big Love Pickleball Fundraiser Feb. 8-11 welcomes players to the 12 pickleball courts at Jimmy Moore Park in Melbourne, where funds will assist the charity. Big Love Director Kristin Swenson masterminded the unique fundraiser.

“Why not put fun into a fundraiser,” she said. 

The back stories for the animals under Big Love’s wing are rarely happy ones. All have been abandoned or neglected.

“We have found them dumped in the middle of the road and left in empty apartments,”  Swenson said.

Heather Holjes, involved with animal rescue for more than a decade, began the organization four-and-a-half years ago to add an extra layer of protection for creatures who have suffered much.

“Most rescues, even the huge ones with millions of dollars of government and national support, do not take back animals they’ve adopted out,” Holjes said.

Big Love is different. 

“We guardian for life all our animals,” she added.

Regardless of the reason an animal is again surrendered, whether it is a change in the home dynamics or a death of the owner, Big Love will receive animals again with open arms. If trust issues have deemed the pet unsuitable for adoption, it is nevertheless assured love and care for the remainder of its days at Big Love’s sanctuary in Melbourne. 

“Our volunteers are there every day, caring and feeding them and cleaning after them,” Swenson said. 

The group is all about quality over quantity when it comes to animal rescue.

“I don't believe in a rescue that competes with numbers,” Holjes said. “Rescues that are all number based are usually not being truthful, either. Adopting out tons of animals is easy if you don't have high safety standards and adopt out to anyone.”

Holjes said some rescues don’t share how many of their animals were returned, due to what she called a “bad adoption,” or how many animals originated at other rescues. 

“I have had to take adult animals from people who adopted the animals as babies from other rescues and then decided they didn’t want them when they were adults,” she shared.

Although Big Love primarily works with dogs and cats of all ages, the group has rescued rabbits, guinea pigs and even hedgehogs. Big Love also serves as guardian for a large stray and feral cat colony in Melbourne, feeding, vaccinating, spaying or neutering and providing medical care for any of the felines that become sick or are injured.  

Volunteers also foster animals in their homes.

“We are supported 100% by unpaid volunteers and our fundraisers, which range from online raffle baskets to garage sales to our upcoming pickleball tournament,” Holjes said.  

Prospective adopters can meet animals available for adoption by appointment only after completing an adoption application. Big Love averages 65 to 70 animals in its sanctuary and Foster to Adopt program. It costs between $3,000 to $4,000 a month to feed and care for the critters.

“I think we are considered a small rescue in the grand scheme of things, but we try to be a very effective rescue putting the lifelong welfare of our animals as our top priority,” Holjes said. 

Want to share Big Love?

To adopt, volunteer or donate, visit

Big Love Pickleball Fundraiser

When: Feb. 8-11
Where: Jimmy Moore Park, 2801 Sarno Road, Melbourne
Cost: $60 per player
Click here to register 
Note: The tournament will feature both beginner and advanced levels for players age 12 and older. 

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