NORMAL — The wait had been too long for Amber Van Hoveln of Kappa. While millions of Americans were watching the kickoff of Super Bowl LII Sunday evening, Van Hoveln was signing adoption papers at the Hyatt in Uptown Normal.

Her take home was a 3-month-old male collie mix named Chip, one of the participants in the inaugural Puppy Bowl at The Hyatt Place in Uptown Normal, sponsored by Pet Central Helps, a local no-kill shelter based in Bloomington-Normal.

“It’s been too long since I had a dog,” she said. “We’re changing that today.”

Chip was among those available for adoption Sunday at the event said Lisa Kitchens, the founder of Pet Central Helps.

“We’re having a fundraiser and it’s a way to get the word out about us,” she said. “We’re raising money because our goals are a little different. We try to keep local animals in their homes by providing services like pet food banks and things like that. We provide information such as if people need to know where pet-friendly housing is and a program called Caring Paws where we can keep the pets of hospitalized people.”

About 100 people attended the Puppy Bowl in which the dogs were provided bandanas representing either the New England Patriots or the Philadelphia Eagles. Points were scored when one of the dogs carried a toy placed in the fenced-in area, across a goal line.

“We wanted to do something different and we were having a Super Bowl party anyway,” said Angela Brown, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Place. “Plus, we are a pet-friendly hotel and this is a perfect way to showcase that and have a lot of fun as well.”

Natalie Brooks, 11, and her sister, Lauren, 8, volunteer for Pet Central Helps and were at the event, moving from one dog to another.

“I love dogs because they have such great personalities,” Natalie, of Bloomington, said. “They are so beautiful and I just love being around them and petting them all of the time.”

Natalie and Lauren don’t have a dog of their own, right now.

“Our family fosters dogs and so that’s a great way to be around different dogs all of the time,” Natalie said.

Also attending the event were sisters Amy and Janet Norton of Normal, who didn’t feel like watching the Super Bowl, but were okay with watching the Puppy Bowl.

“I could watch the dogs play for three hours, but I wouldn’t sit through a three-hour football game,” said Amy.

“I think this is a great idea,” added Janet. “Do you realize how easy it is to make friends when one of you has a puppy. All you have to do is start playing with one and you make an instant friend. Actually, two – one furry, one human.”

Kitchens said Pet Central Helps strives to provide education and support to pets and people in need so that they can stay healthy and remain together.

“We work a lot with the education institutions in town at all different levels,” she said. “We think that is important to get different ideas and training methods so that we can help both animals and people.”

The agency has been around for about a year and currently operates out of their headquarters at 360 Wylie Drive in Normal.

Follow Kevin Barlow on Twitter: @pg_barlow

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