Atlanta woman turning 30, vows to raise $30,000 for homeless animals

Most people mark their 30th birthday in one of two ways: Oganizing a fabulous party or trip where they’re the pampered center of attention.

Or hiding under the bed so no one knows how "old" they're getting.

And then there's the Neely Conway Way. The native Atlantan and dedicated volunteer at local animal shelters plans on celebrating her milestone day a thousand times over. She's launched a three month campaign to raise $30,000 for the nonprofit that operates the Fulton and DeKalb county shelters by her 30th birthday on July 27.

That’s a lot of three’s. But wait! There’s more …

“I started thinking about this, doing the math on if it was even possible. And I realized it came out to exactly $333 a day (to raise),” said Conway, a marketing manager at PGI who lives in Virginia-Highland with her husband, their two dogs and a rotating cast of foster dogs. “That sounded so perfect, like it was all coming together in a way I couldn’t have imagined.

"The math seemed daunting," she laughed. "But it didn't seem crazy."

Ah, the folly of youth (well, for about seven more weeks, anyway). Then again, maybe not. The campaign, which officially began on April 27 and has a web site for making donations ( and a hashtag (#30Kby30), already is nearing the $10,000 mark. It should get an even bigger boost come Wednesday night when J & J Bourbon Bar & Grill on North Highland Avenue hosts a "Drink 'Til Close" fundraiser from 6 p.m. until … um, you get the idea. There's no admission charge, but raffle tickets for local artist Thomas Turner's painting of a shelter dog named Hudson cost $25.

Along with the raffle money, 15 percent of all of J & J's proceeds will go to Conway's "30thousand by 30" campaign, which benefits LifeLine Animal Project. The nonprofit three years ago took over the management of Fulton County Animal Services and DeKalb County Animal Services — two of the largest "open admission" shelters in the state. LifeLine is working to reduce the number of homeless animals entering those shelters through spay and neutering programs, adoption initiatives and the like. Meanwhile, LifeLine reached "no-kill" levels (defined as saving 90 percent or more of the animals coming in) at Fulton last November and at DeKalb in March.

“That was unthinkable when I started (volunteering)” about five years ago, said Conway, who sees expansion and updating as the Fulton’s shelter’s biggest need now. It was originally designed in the 1980s just to hold strays, not for the public to come in and view animals, she said. “Right now, it holds 230 to 280 animals, which is insane for that small and outdated a shelter. And it’s difficult to go through, through no fault of anyone.”

Conway jokes that her husband has her on "a three-dog limit" at home. But Joe Conway has been incredibly encouraging of her campaign, she says, pointing out that even if it only raised three hundred dollars, "That's three hundred more than they had before."

(In case you’re wondering, the couple celebrated Joe’s 30th two years ago with a trip to see friends in Boston.)

Right now, though, it’s full speed ahead towards that goal of 30 by 30. And if she doesn’t hit the magic $30,000 mark by July 27th?

Well, there’s always July 28th. And the 29th. And …

“I’m going to keep going,” Conway said of that possibility. “I’m looking at this as a totally posititive experience already. So I’d just keep going.”

For more information about the campaign or to make a donation, go to