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Astros stars honored to host Kids and K9s event

MLB.com @alysonfooter

HOUSTON -- The Astros returned from their quick three-game jaunt to Southern California around 6 a.m. CT on Thursday, but any lingering weariness from their red-eye flight was undetectable during their first major charity event of the season.

Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel hosted the second annual Team Up for Kids and K9s event on Thursday night at Tootsies, benefiting the Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation and the Sunshine Kids Foundation.

HOUSTON -- The Astros returned from their quick three-game jaunt to Southern California around 6 a.m. CT on Thursday, but any lingering weariness from their red-eye flight was undetectable during their first major charity event of the season.

Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel hosted the second annual Team Up for Kids and K9s event on Thursday night at Tootsies, benefiting the Lance McCullers Jr. Foundation and the Sunshine Kids Foundation.

Approximately 400 guests attended the posh event at the upscale women's clothing store in the Upper Kirby area of Houston.

"Last year, we raised just shy of $100,000, and this year, before the event even started, we already raised about $130,000," McCullers said. "It's growing. This is the community that we live in, this is the city that supports us, and we like to give back and do some cool things and [show them] how much it means that they support us, and we're here for them too."

McCullers and his wife Kara are dedicated animal advocates, and their foundation was established with the intent to bring awareness and create programs for stray and homeless animals across the country. Their goal is to support shelters and programs that promote pet adoptions and continue on the journey to make Houston a no-kill city.

Tweet from @alysonfooter: Images from tonight���s Team Up for Kids and K9s event at Tootsies, hosted by @LMcCullers43, @JoseAltuve27 and @kidkeuchy pic.twitter.com/sc2chUI9w0

In addition to several current Astros players and staff, Orbit and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, the Kids and K9s event also featured approximately 10 dogs eligible for adoption from BARC, Houston's animal shelter and adoption facility.

"One of our goals is to bring awareness that animals in the shelter are happy, healthy, amazing dogs," McCullers said. "Thirty percent of dogs in shelters are actually purebred. If you don't want an animal from a shelter, there's so many rescue groups out there that have animals that need adoption.

"All the animals out there need loving homes, but I just think there's no love like a rescue animal can give. And you're saving a life in the process."

The Sunshine Kids have had a long-standing relationship with the Astros that has spanned decades, thanks to advocacy efforts from the two greatest second basemen in Houston history. The partnership started with Biggio and has been passed along to Altuve, who has invested his time in the support group for kids with cancer and their families.

"Those are kids who need a lot of help and I'm one of those guys here every day trying to do everything I can to help them," Altuve said. "If I can get together with Lance and Dallas to help the Sunshine Kids, then I think it's awesome."

Added Keuchel: "Being the second year, this is a wonderful event. Just coming to the first one, it kind of hit home for me. I told [McCullers] right after the event that I wanted to lend my name to it."

In addition to the three hosts and Biggio, among the Astros in attendance were pitchers Justin Verlander and Collin McHugh, shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielder George Springer, along with pitching coach Brent Strom and television personality Julia Morales.

Orbit pranced around the room, posing for pictures and showing off his World Series ring, while the hosts spent ample time posing for pictures with fans, next to the World Series trophy.

"Anything we can do for the city of Houston, we're going to be happy to do it," Altuve said. "I feel that we owe Houston more than anything. I'm really happy to be here."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Houston Astros, Jose Altuve, Lance McCullers Jr., Dallas Keuchel