Earth Day 4th Anniversary — Does Everything Happen for a Reason?

Photo: Greg at Zion National Park, Utah, spring 2012.

This week, I am proud to mark the 4-year anniversary of the Gregory J. Reiter Memorial Fund. Since the Fund’s establishment on Earth Day, April 22, 2016, it has distributed a total of $417,085 in grants to 30 organizations and individuals (see Honor Roll below) working to end the abuse of animals in labs, entertainment, private homes, and production of food and consumer goods; and to promote veganism for the benefit of animals, human health, and our environment.

COVID-19 has starkly illustrated the importance of this fund’s work to end the cruel and cavalier treatment of animals — treatment that inevitably comes back to bite us. This is true if the source of this pandemic is eventually confirmed to be a live animal market — currently the most accepted explanation. And it’s true if the pandemic’s source is an animal virus that escaped from a lab, an oft-cited alternative explanation.

The Greg Fund has accomplished quite a lot in four years. Here are five recent notable achievements by organizations to which the Fund has been a major contributor:

1 – Exam Room Live

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Exam Room podcast and Facebook Live programs have enabled thousands to receive free life-saving information on how diet can prevent, improve or even reverse conditions like hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes — conditions that are deadly in themselves, and are also leading risk factors for severe COVID-19 symptoms.

2 – EPA Animal-Free Chemical Testing

In September 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made an historic decision to eliminate all chemical testing on mammals by 2035, and to immediately begin the transition to more modern and effective methods. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) worked toward this outcome for decades, and White Coat Waste Project (WCW) also campaigned for this result in recent years. In announcing the plan, EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler recognized all three organizations as leading stakeholders.

3 – Horse Racing Reckoning

PETA has worked for over a decade to end the use of performance-enhancing drugs that cause hundreds of racehorses each year to suffer fatal breakdowns. On March 9, 2020, the New York Times reported in More Than Two Dozen Charged in Horse Racing Doping Scheme that federal prosecutors charged 27 racehorse trainers, veterinarians, and drug distributors with “a corrupt scheme to secretly dope horses and cheat the betting public in what has become a $100 billion global industry.” Then on March 13, Washington Post Opinion published its editorial board’s position that Horse Racing has Outlived its Time, citing as key evidence PETA’s 2014 investigation into treatment of horses including Charlie’s Quest, who I later adopted.

4 – Lab Animal Retirement

WCW successfully prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to halt nicotine experiments that had caused four squirrel monkeys to die, and send the 26 surviving monkeys — including Gregory, pictured here — to Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary. WCW also prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture to halt kitten experiments that had killed over 3,000 animals since 1982, and adopt out 14 surviving cats.

5 – Dog Tethering Restrictions

The PETA Community Animal Project successfully worked during Virginia’s 2020 legislative session to help pass SB 272 in the House and Senate, mandating shelter for animals in temperatures of 32° F or lower or 85° F or higher, or during a severe weather warning. The bill, which also increases the minimum tether length from 10 to 15 feet, builds on 2019 SB 1025 which PETA also championed. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill into law on April 9.

Greg believed firmly that everything happens for a reason — and since his inexplicable death 4-1/2 years ago, I have sought to reconcile that belief with his early death. At this point, I am unable to see the reason why my spouse should have left this world at just 52 years of age — as I am unable to see the reason why innocent people should now be dying in a global pandemic.  

What have I been able to do? Turn at least some of the negative energy surrounding Greg’s death into something positive — specifically, by selling the car that killed him and the property where he died, and investing the proceeds to launch this Fund.

The choice of animal rights as the central cause was an obvious one for me: during our years together, Greg and I had not only rescued nearly 20 animals of our own, but had also gone vegan, turned our final shared home into a wildlife sanctuary, and become progressively more active with animal advocacy organizations.

I’ve been touched by the way my initial investment has turned into a kind of stone soup over these four years — with friends, colleagues, and family members continuing to make contributions into the Fund.

I’ve been proud to partner with all the Fund grantees, and proud of the ways they have used the grants. I have also been deeply grateful to the generous institutions and individuals who have contributed into the Fund. (See Honor Roll below.) Last but not least, I am grateful to my inaugural Fund manager ImpactAssets, and to the Community Foundation of Frederick County, Maryland that has assumed management since September 2019.



The following organizations have received direct Greg Fund grants since April 2016: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Animal Place and its Food for Thought Program, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, White Coat Waste Project, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, Jungle Friends Primate Sanctuary, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Compassion Over Killing (now Animal Outlook), Good Food Institute, Virginia Beach SPCA, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Beagle Freedom Project, Vegan Outreach, and Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation.

These organizations and individuals have received PETA’s Gregory J. Reiter Animal Rescue Award through partnership with the Fund: Paulette Dean of the Danville Area Humane Society, Stacey Norris of Houses of Wood & Straw, the Virginia Beach SPCA, and Katie McCotter.

These organizations have received Food for Thought grants through the Greg Fund’s partnership with Animal Place: Animal Help Now, Centre for a Responsible Future, Climate First!, Colorado Native Bird Care and Conservation, Fauna Foundation, Friends of Washoe, Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, Oklahoma Primate Sanctuary, Second Chance Wildlife Center, Second Chance Wildlife Rehabilitation, and Wildcare.


These generous institutions and individuals have contributed into the Greg Fund, or to one of its partner organizations in Greg’s memory:

Institutions: Amherst Foundation, Benevity Community Impact Fund, Charles Schwab Foundation, Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, Middleburg Animal Hospital, and Yount Hyde & Barbour, P.C.

Individuals: Irene Abdou, Alejandro Aguilar, Randy and Jessie Ahlgren, Hani Alam, Emily Allen, Scott Anderson, Isabelle Anderson, Helena Antonowitsch, Alison Anzalone, William Bailey, Scott Barnum, Hannah Battiste, James Bejjani, Anthony Bellotti, Bob Benedict, Keith Bickel, Alaric Bien, Monique Bilezikian, Chris Bledsoe, Erica Bocaner, Julie Borneman, Jennifer Bosworth, Lee Brading, Moni Burke, Noelle Callahan, Michael Calley, Alka Chandna, Hanh Chau, Judy Cheske, Shalei Choi, Matthew Cole, Joe Coleman, Donna Corley, Nancy Cule, Jeana Curro, Bryan Dalton, Katherine Daniels, Maria Di Paolo-Greer, Angela Dickey, Sean Dobson, Kelley Grady Dunkelberg, Roy Eappen, Jacob Eliosoff, John Elliott, Nancy Ertel, Jane Fisher, Colleen Flanagan, Kathy Foody-Malus, Matt Fox, Tim Fricker, Bruce Friedrich, Dan Gallegos, Darlene Garofalo, Ann Garvey, Stephanie Gentile, Matt Giammarinaro, Elizabeth Gibbons, Jerri Sue Gienger, Shannon M. Gilmore, Justin Goodman, Laurie Goodman, Chuck Gordon, Kathy Guillermo, Lily Han, Stephen Hanchey, Mark Hanson, Matt Harding, Lisa Hausner, Rob Haworth, Anita Herrera, Lauren Hill, Jeff Ho, Grace Holden, Jason Holstine, Pat Huey, Nancy Hughitt, Micha Iszkowski, Paul and Joni Jablansky, Rick Jackson, Krista Jacobsen, Marielle Jan de Beur, Leslie Jay, M. Song Jo, Kate St. John, Susan Johnson, Stephanie Jones, James Jones, Nanna Jonsson, Steven Kehrli, Keith Kemplin, Christine Kestner, Samuel Kim, Barbara J. King, Lisa Kirchenbauer, Adam Kobor, Bee Sim Koh, Kirsten Krivoshia, Caroline Kuhfahl, Bryon Kuhn, Deborah Kula, Thomas N Kushner, Ilona Lantos, Caryn Laurion, Cindy Lax, Joshua Levine, Cheng and Yinsheng Li, David Liu, Anish S Lohokare, Daniel Lynch, Desmond E Macauley, Ryan and Huyen MacMichael, Jessica Stacy MacNair, Brian Maddox, Deborah and Thomas Mahnken, Rebecca Manning, Syd Marcus, Mary Martin Loder, Maria Mascia, Rachel McCrystal, Katie McHenry, James P. McWalters, Dana Meeker, Erica Meier, Jill Miller, Linda Millington, Greta Morris, Lisa Myers, Daphna Nachminovitch, Michael Nardacci, Ha Minh Nguyen, Thu Thi Nguyen, Jim North, Eric O’Grey, Diana Ok, Don Owen, Diana Papazian, Debbie Pedro, Brittany Peet, Richard Peppin, George Perez, Sarah Jenny Pitman, Jennifer Hoes Porter, Paige Poss, David and Valerie Preston, Donna Quinn, Kalpana Ramiah, David Red, Russ Regenauer, Alicia Robb, Jeanne Roush, Steve Rowenhorst, Diane Schumaker-Krieg, Susan Macdorman Sedlazek, Dipa Sharif, Kevin Sid, Jesse Singh, Stephanie Skinner, Maria Skuratovskaya, Mildred Fletcher Slater, Sally Snidow, Rama Sohonee, Madison Sparks, Tara Ann Stanczyk, Sarah Steadman, Kim Sturla, Nicole Sudduth, Mongia Tanfous, Andrea Tavernini, Harry Thomas, Yi Ting, Doug Tipperman, David Tom, Catherine Vade Bon Coeur, Al Van Huyck, Tiziana Vigliocco-Cockrell, Fernando Villavicencio, Claudia Vivanco, Elizabeth and Stephen Ward, Betsy Wason, Melissa Weinstock, Charles Williams, Delci Winders, Kristy Wolfe, Wilfred Wong, Lisa Woods, Huijuan Xu, Robert Young, David Yuen, Anne Zaleski, and Gary Zhu.

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