Young animal welfare advocates step up

Rebecca Burroughs (left) with her Maltese, Coco Chanel, and Cali Barnstead, Grade 10 students at Strathcona Tweedsmuir School in Okotoks, AB, are already schooled in the merits of community service.

Rebecca Burroughs (left) with her Maltese, Coco Chanel, and Cali Barnstead, Grade 10 students at Strathcona Tweedsmuir School in Okotoks, AB, are already schooled in the merits of community service.

By Sherry Butt

Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “We cannot always build the future for your youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” And, if the two young women I met earlier this spring is any indication of who the adults of tomorrow will be, our world will be a much better place.

Rebecca Burroughs and Cali Barnstead, currently Grade 10 students at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School, an independent school in Okotoks, AB, demonstrated their passion for helping animals at an early age.

Three years ago in Grade 7, Rebecca started working with Heaven Can Wait, a rescue organization located in High River, AB.

Rebecca and two of her classmates decided they wanted to get involved with a charity of some sort. “We all love animals so we wanted to do something to help animals,” she said. Another of Rebecca’s classmates gave her the idea of Heaven Can Wait. “I went on the website and thought what they did was really great. And unlike the Calgary Humane Society, Heaven Can Wait is not as well known and it needed a lot more help and donations.”

Rebecca first contacted Heaven Can Wait to find out what the rescue organization needed before planning any fundraising activities. Cash donations to support the rescue’s spay and neuter program as well as donations of blankets and food and volunteer help to take care of the pets was on the list.

Rebecca and her two classmates, Mary Hou and Sarah Mary Cooper, came up with a plan. “We did a bake sale and set up a competition between the home rooms in middle school,” said Rebecca. “The class that raised the most money had a pizza party, with donated pizza.”

The first year, the three raised $1,400 and in the second year they more than doubled that amount, raising $4,500. In addition to fundraising, the girls volunteered at Heaven Can Wait on the weekends.

Cali joined Rebecca in Grade 8, when she moved back to Calgary from Australia for the 2011-2012 school year. “We were in the same home room and we became friends right away,” said Cali. “And then she told me about the program she was doing for Heaven Can Wait and I thought it was a really good idea.”

The two have decided they will continue volunteering and raising money for Heaven Can Wait, during Grade 10. Helping out in the community is part of the curriculum in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years Programme at Strathcona Tweedsmuir.

“For me, I like doing service because it’s helping the animals,” said Rebecca. “There is a need to  educate people about things like puppy mills, spaying and neutering your pets and adopting rather than buying from a pet store,” she added.

The concept of “adopt rather than shop” is very important to Rebecca. “Recently when I was in LA and I went to a pet store, it was pretty obvious that the puppies were from a puppy mill. It really maddens me because puppy mills aren’t good at all. No living creature should have to go through being in a place like that,” she said.

The issue of puppy mills is also an important issue for Cali. “Some of the animals that come out of puppy mills aren’t really adoptable and I know that Kim (from Heaven Can Wait) is really open hearted, taking care of animals that may never find a home,” she said. “It’s really nice to help her out, because she has a lot of dogs that aren’t really adoptable.”

Rebecca has two Maltese dogs, Coco Chanel and Conway, as well as a leopard gecko named Eli and a Beta fish named Kitty. Cali has two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, brothers adopted from the Calgary Humane Society.

When asked what the future holds for the two Grade 10 students, Rebecca said she was interested in pursuing a career that involved animals or fashion and Cali was focused on a career helping disabled children.