NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – Shiloh Baptist Church, just outside downtown Norfolk, doesn’t horse around with the annual blessing of the pets. It’s a tradition pastor Dr. Keith Ivan Jones borrows from his days as an Army chaplain.

“They’ve brought dogs and horses and all types of pets, and what we’ve done is simply to pray for the pets because we understand how important pets are to our sense of emotional and mental well-being,” Jones said.

Shiloh launched the pet blessing event in the spring of 2020 just as the coronavirus pandemic exposed cradle-to-grave health disparities in the underserved communities of Hampton Roads.

“Well, one of the things the pandemic showed us in a very clear way is that access to care is one of the largest factors in terms of healthcare disparities,” said Jones, who has formed a partnership with Sentara Healthcare.

Beginning Saturday morning at 10 a.m., A Day for All People and Even Pets will include prostate cancer screening. According to Zero Cancer, Black men are approximately twice as likely to be diagnosed and die from prostate cancer.

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“So what we do is prostate cancer screening, and we’re doing that in conjunction with Sentara and EVMS,” Jones said, and we expect for people to come to get some information about prostate cancer, some of the warning signs and how to prevent it, and get the digital rectal exam and the PSA test. We are doing it right here at Shiloh Baptist Church.”

Sentara will also roll out its mobile mammogram unit to screen for breast cancer.

FILE – This July 31, 2012, file photo shows a mammogram, a test to detect cancer. A new study suggests that adding MRIs to mammograms to screen women with very dense breasts may find more cancers but also gives a lot of false alarms. (Torin Halsey/Times Record News via AP, File)

According to the Mayo Clinic, Black women are 41% more likely to die from breast cancer than White women, despite a lower risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

“Breast cancer is one of the major killers for our people,” Jones said. “It’s really one of the major killers and it’s so avoidable. Early detection is key.”

The former Army Chaplain has all the logistics covered for” A Day for All People and Even Pets.”

“If you come for a mammogram or prostate screening,” Jones said, “just bring your pet. One of us will hold your pet while you go get your test.”