Sharon Fletcher, Director of Marketing & Communications

Maddie’s Fund® is honored to present the 2022 Avanzino Leadership Award to James Evans for his outstanding leadership and purposeful dedication to the human-animal bond. This award recognizes significant achievement and courage to look beyond the status quo and make bold decisions to improve the lives of pets and their people.

James is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Companion Animals for Reform and Equity (CARE). CARE works in the interest of human and animal well-being, prioritizes and amplifies Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and other marginalized voices using narratives, research, and community-centered investments. The award was presented to James Evans at the inaugural convening of The Gathering Conference in Philadelphia, PA on October 6, 2022 and comes with a $25,000 grant to CARE.

This award is named after Rich Avanzino, known for his ground breaking and creative approach to innovative programs that promote live outcomes and Maddie’s Fund President from 1998 - 2015.

"James has profoundly transformed our field through racial equity, diversity and inclusion,” said Mary Ippoliti-Smith, Executive Leadership Team, Maddie’s Fund. "He is creating a space for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) in the animal well-being sector; and recasting animal well-being within the community, outside the shelter walls.”

CARE is a collection of passionate activists and deep thinkers focused on better outcomes for people and pets. The organization is unique in that they are not attempting to do the work best done by those directly impacted by inequities. They are, however, creating tools and opportunities for marginalized people to rebuild their own communities.

In service to its mission, CARE, under James’ leadership, has partnered with Harvard Project Implicit to develop an Implicit Bias Association Test specifically for the animal well-being field. C.A.R.E. has created the Racial Equity Diversity Inclusion (REDI) course, initiated and administered the Jodie G. Blackwell Scholarship for veterinary students of color at four Universities, and developed and amplified the recognition of 15 CARE Centers in Atlanta and Macon, GA; Brooklyn NY; Philadelphia, PA; Red Lake, Mille Lacs and Minneapolis, MN; and Miami FL.

"By asking difficult and critical questions and by uplifting the work of those who have long been overlooked, James has spearheaded a new and necessary landscape in a field that is in great need of community-driven solutions,” said Akisha Townsend Eaton, CARE Chief of Policy, Environmental Justice Division. "Without this effort, effective, long-term, and sustainable progress in the field of human and animal well-being would simply not be possible. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with James and his team each day in making the world a better place for people and animals, alike.”

James is also a multi-award winning creative strategist and leader with 25+ years of experience developing relationships between organizations and their constituents.

Prior to creating CARE, James, founded Illume Communications. His marketing and communications expertise has been utilized across a diverse group of brands, both not-for-profit, and for-profit. Back in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, Illume was hired to assist in a two-state, Louisiana and Mississippi, Spay and Neuter campaign for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Illume’s market research helped demonstrate what James already knew – that underserved communities of color love their animals just the same as everyone else, but they weren’t given the same access to resources. James photographed every moment and depicted the love, not the class, of the human. The campaign was so successful that HSUS licensed the campaign to more than 24 other cities across the U.S. This led to the development of Pets for Life, which helped reshape animal well-being, while simultaneously advocating for more diversity and inclusion throughout the field.

He has also played an integral part in many animal well-being organization’s projects, including HSUS’ Adopters Welcome, Outdoor Cats Research, Stop Puppy Mills and Spayathon, as well as Best Friends Animal Society’s Outreach Action Team, and SPCA of Texas’ Let’s Fix This Campaign.

In addition to his work with people and companion animals, James is an accomplished photographer specializing in wildlife. He has a great fondness and appreciation for Osprey and the Bald Eagle.

About Maddie's Fund

Maddie's Fund® is a family foundation established in 1994 by Dave and Cheryl Duffield and is the fulfillment of a promise to their inspirational dog, Maddie. She provided them much joy from 1987 – 1997 and continues to inspire them today.

The Foundation has awarded over $275.7 million in grants toward increased community lifesaving, pioneering shelter medicine education and establishing foster care as a standard across the U.S.

Maddie's Fund proudly offers the industry a national voice, important funding opportunities for bold ideas, learning resources and access to collaborate and share innovative solutions. The Foundation invests its resources in a commitment to keeping pets and people together, creating a safety net of care for animals in need and operating within a culture of inclusiveness and humility. #ThanksToMaddie.