Being a hero isn’t restricted to any one species, as the people and the animals of the BC SPCA have proven, time and again. The BC SPCA honoured a wide range of diverse heroes at the annual BC SPCA Awards Ceremony, held at a special dinner event on May 6 in Abbotsford.
From outstanding volunteers to incredible supporters, from veterinarians who tirelessly donate their time and skills to a courageous dog and cat, this year’s awards recognize human and furry recipients from communities throughout British Columbia.
“This year’s awards recipients lead by example and showcase all the reasons why our work is so rewarding,” says BC SPCA chief executive officer Craig Daniell. “I am constantly amazed and humbled by the outstanding staff, volunteers, partners, supporters and others who help us help the province’s most vulnerable animals. It’s truly extraordinary to have such impressive support.”
Volunteer of the Year – Linda Munk
Linda Munk started volunteering at the Vernon and District BC SPCA Branch primarily as a driver, taking animals to and from vet visits, allowing staff to staff to stay at the shelter to work with the other animals. Always friendly and smiling, she often gets much-needed shelter supplies and does other errands, like monitoring and collecting various coin donation boxes around town, doing bank runs and often picking up a coffee or two for staff. In addition, Linda also drives animals to and from Salmon Arm or Kelowna to transfer animals between the branches – an invaluable service, as Vernon has an extremely small number of staff. She has been so enthusiastic about helping out that she was trained in office work, and can help with many of the administrative duties – so much so that she has taken over responsibility of the filing system and exclusively files adoption and other animal-related paperwork once animals have left the branch. A member of the branch’s fundraising committee, Linda is a valued member of the Paws for a Cause registration team and helps with other events, including the annual garage sale and golf tournament, among others. Her enthusiasm also makes her a great one-woman welcome committee, ready with a big smile and a friendly hello to everyone who comes through the door.
Volunteer of the Year – Julie Ondang
Julie Ondang is an amazing foster volunteer who never says ‘no’ to a foster animal and is always willing to try. She started fostering cats and kittens in 2012 and since then, she has fostered 136 cats and kitten for the BC SPCA Kamloops and District Branch. Julie keeps meticulous records for all her foster animals and makes notes of all their treatments. In 2015, she had three adult cats and 13 kittens at the same time, but regardless of how many cats she has at a time, she maintains a clean and healthy environment for them, and somehow also maintains a blog and a kitty cam to track her foster felines’ progress. On top of being extremely good with her foster cats, she is a great resource to other volunteers, even training new foster families on how to bottle-feed kittens. Her bottle-feeding chart, designed to track and record the progress of her kittens, has been incorporated into the Kamloops and District Branch’s foster manual and has been shared across the province. Julie also assists in trap-neuter-return campaigns for outdoor cats, and takes on extra tasks such as data entry for cruelty cases or fundraising, in addition to working full time, co-owning a restaurant and being a busy mother.
Veterinarian of the Year – Dr. Diane McKelvey and Dr. Ken Gummeson of Aberdeen Veterinary Hospital
Aberdeen Veterinary Hospital’s Dr. Diane McKelvey and Dr. Ken Gummeson are dedicated supporters of the Kamloops and District BC SPCA Branch. Since opening in January 2015, Aberdeen Veterinary Clinic has provided services for more than 200 shelter animals – prior to opening the clinic, Diane and Ken approached the Kamloops branch to discuss how they could be a resource to the shelter. They routinely offer discounted and after-hours procedures in order to save the branch money. Their clinic is always open to seeing an animal on short notice and to fit BC SPCA animals in, no matter how busy their schedules are. If procedures, such as births, can be done at the shelter, they will walk staff through the steps needed. Dr. McKelvey and Dr. Gummeson are always willing to help in any way they can, and help promote animals they’ve treated on social media, to help generate adoption interest, as well as sponsoring and supporting BC SPCA events.
Humane Community Award – Whitehorse Humane Society and Air North Airlines
BC SPCA Shelters have experienced a reduction in dog intake over the past few years. Many do not have adoptable dogs present in sufficient numbers or diversity to interest the public while others, particularly in northern regions, continue to struggle with pet overpopulation. For these reasons, transfers are an integral part of animal management across the province’s communities and the Whitehorse Humane Society and Air North Airlines have had a direct impact in the lives of animals by supporting 70 animal transfers to the central Okanagan. In August 2013, then-volunteer vice-president of Whitehorse Humane Society Linda Priestly formed a relationship with the Kelowna BC SPCA Branch and soon after, the Yukon shelter was accepted as an approved BC SPCA rescue facility. During this time, Linda also fostered a relationship with Air North Airline and secured a commitment by the airline for two free flights to Kelowna per month, ensuring more animals’ lives are saved and strengthening partnerships with both the airline and the Yukon shelter.
Media Excellence Award – Jim Pattison Broadcast Group – B104
B104 goes above and beyond to promote the BC SPCA East Kootenay Branch in Cranbrook. Every event and news gets broadcasted, thanks to the great team at Pattison Broadcasting, especially Derek Kortschaga and Gina Martin, who are on top of everything that goes on. Derek spends time getting to know the animals in need of homes by taking the time to go down to the shelter at least once a week. He has also adopted, fostered and donated, as well as stressing on the air how important these three things are. Thanks to Gina Martin, the East Kootenay Branch is always on the news. She believes in the work the BC SPCA does and makes sure to call and ask for updates often, and always makes sure to get the word out. B104 makes sure to attend all the events hosted by the East Kootenay Branch. They often market events on the radio and are always willing to sponsor events – they’re community animal advocate leaders whose passion for animals clearly shows in the work they do.
Leadership Award – Cristie Steele
Cristie Steele is an incredible member of the Vancouver BC SPCA Branch team and a role model for other staff. As a great team player, she is always willing to pitch in and go above and beyond to help her coworkers. Cristie always takes initiative to ensure that each animal’s welfare is as optimal as possible and is always thinking up new ways to address concerns, work with animals’ behaviour issues, or to make the animals’ stay at the shelter as pleasant as possible. Cristie lets no opportunity to learn pass by; she is always eager to learn as much as possible about the field of animal welfare and is always willing to share that knowledge with people interested in learning about animal advocacy and the BC SPCA and our policies. On top of her regular duties, she excels at social media, working tirelessly to ensure that the Vancouver location’s Facebook page has engaging posts to highlight shelter animals and recognize volunteers and staff. Her attention to detail ensures that all animals who come into the shelter’s care have photos, pet portfolios and detailed notes, to assist with matching the animal to the right human(s) for adoption. A passionate animal advocate, Cristie leads by example in every way and is always a pleasure to work with.
Animal Courage Award – Zoë (formerly Nikki)
Zoë was one of 57 neglected animals seized from a Surrey property in August 2015. When Zoë first came into the care of the BC SPCA, she had scabs on her head from being confined to a crate far too small for her size and she was extremely fearful of anyone or anything new to her. She was even afraid to go for walks, or go through doorways or up or down stairs. Zoë spent many days in the BC SPCA’s provincial office while she was a foster and learned, with the help of staff dogs like Tuli and Winston, how to be a dog again. Under the tutelage of Tuli and Winston, Zoë blossomed into a whole new dog, leaving staff seriously wondering if this was the same dog as before. Despite persistent attempts to find an “in-house” adopter to keep her around forever, office staff were ecstatic when she found a forever home, where she is showered with love, attention and affection every day. Zoë’s story is all too common – a fearful dog seized from terrible conditions, but her journey of courage and resiliency is what makes her story so inspiring. With the unconditional love and encouragement provided to her, she became the fun-loving and curious dog she is today.
Animal Courage Award – Midnight
Midnight arrived at the Campbell River Branch in January 2015 as a stray with horrible injuries from having been burned by a car engine, where she had likely crawled into for warmth. Her burns covered about a third of her body and the surrounding flesh had begun to die. Midnight was rushed to Merecroft Veterinary Hospital for emergency surgery and resided there during her intensive recovery. She needed around-the-clock care, and was cared for at the vet and in a foster home for more than a year before being given a clean bill of health. When Midnight came back to the shelter, it took just over a month before she found a forever home with a wonderful, loving family.
Lifetime Achievement Award – Irene Towell
The recipient of the BC SPCA Lifetime Achievement Award, an honour that is not given every year, was awarded to Irene Towell, manager of the Alberni-Clayoquot SPCA Branch in Port Alberni. An amazing individual who makes a life-changing difference for animals each and every day of her life, Towell has saved the lives of tens of thousands of animals since joining the BC SPCA more than 30 years ago. Someone who is continuously working to improve the shelter, Towell provides extensive training and support for staff and volunteers, and initiates innovative new programs for shelter and community animals, while always making herself available to help her BC SPCA colleagues. She and husband Phil have spent countless hours repairing and refurbishing the Port Alberni shelter, and the strong relationships she has built with local government and First Nations communities have helped her to have a positive impact on animal welfare in the region. Despite having already saved so many animals, Irene is always focused on the next animal who needs her help, and her determination to make a difference never wavers.
Branch of the Year – Chilliwack
It’s never easy to choose a BC SPCA Branch of the Year, as staff and volunteers do amazing jobs at all of the society’s branches across the province, but this year, the BC SPCA Chilliwack Branch stood out for several reasons. As well as completing the financial year with a more than $79,000 surplus – a definite bonus in a non-profit organization – the Chilliwack location’s team of staff and volunteers often open their doors to the most vulnerable animals in BC SPCA, since the branch serves as a “cruelty hub” for the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. The entire team, led by branch manager Ivanna Ferris, lead example on a daily basis with their exemplary customer service and compassion and dedication to the animals in their care.