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Missoula veterinarian Patti Prato doesn’t like asking people for money, even if it is for a good cause.

So this year, when it came time to raise money for the Youth Homes Run 4 Kids Missoula Marathon team, Prato took another approach: She decided to ask clients to donate to Youth Homes rather than pay for certain veterinarian services at her clinic.

“You don’t need every bit of money that comes in every day,” said Prato, owner of Four Paws Veterinary Clinic. “That’s just extra money, so it’s OK that extra money goes somewhere else as long as you don’t withhold a paycheck from your employees.”

More than 100 community members like Prato have raised more than $60,000 for children at Youth Homes. Over the past five years, Youth Homes has worked with the Missoula Marathon to encourage runners to join the Run 4 Kids team and raise money for children in their care. Since 2008, the team has raised nearly $300,000 for Youth Homes pro-grams.

Prato is this year’s top fundraiser, having already collected upward of $7,500. By the end of the week, she hopes to have raised close to $9,000.

For several months, Prato hasn’t been charging for minor veterinarian services like acupuncture, laser treatments and chiropractic adjustments.

The other day, when a person brought in a lost cat with a broken leg, Prato fixed the fracture at no charge to the good Samaritan. Eventually, when the cat owner came in to pay for the surgery, Prato just asked them to donate the funds to Youth Homes.

For several months, Prato has been trying to raise $100 a day.

Last year Prato ran her first marathon. She raised $750 for the Youth Homes Run 4 Kids team by putting notices out on Facebook and emailing family and close friends. She didn’t feel comfortable asking people for money, but wanted to raise money for a good cause.

That’s how she came to ask clients to donate to Youth Homes rather than paying for certain veterinarian services. It’s something she’s done in the past. She raised money the same way for the Canine Classic at Paws Up, in which all of the proceeds went to the Humane Society of Western Montana.

Prato figures she’ll pick a different nonprofit each year and for several months ask for donations in lieu of payment.

“I think the clients like it,” she said. “I think they like to donate to a cause and people feel better about themselves and we as a business like to be involved in the community. And if you have money coming in and if you can do it, then why not?”

Youth Homes is a nonprofit in western Montana that cares for children unable to live with their own families. These children have usually experienced a high level of abuse, neglect and family crisis. They serve 160 children ages 2-18 and their families daily.

Reporter Chelsi Moy can be reached at 523-5260 or at chelsi.moy@missoulian.com.

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