Driving along Highway 207 near Seaforth, the cars were lined up for kilometres – down side streets and gravel embankments. Hundreds of people had come to see and show support for the Hope For Wildlife Society.
Horseback riding, live music, BBQ and more, the 11th Hope for Wildlife open house was shaping up to be the organization's biggest yet.
“I remember at our first open house we had 30 or 40 people,” said Hope Swinimer, founder of Hope for Wildlife. “Now we’re getting up to 2,000 people, maybe more on a gorgeous day like this.”
The open house is both a fundraising event and a way to reach out to the community to let people know what they do.
Hailey Stack, a young animal enthusiast, took part in the horseback riding at the event. “I love horses and it’s so fun to ride them, I love all animals,” she said. “I want to be a vet when I get older so I come and check out the animals. We’ve been coming to this for three years, it’s awesome.”
Hope for Wildife’s primary goal is the rescue and rehabilitation of animals, which have been injured. In many cases these animals are returned to their natural habitat.
“The first few open houses had four or five thousand dollars raised, but the last three or four years we’ve been close to that $10,000 mark, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll get that much this year,” Swinimer said.
Hope for Wildlife spends three per cent of money raised on administration costs, the rest is put into the rescue programs.
“A lot of it goes to construction to build new holding units, it goes to medical expenses, it goes to the food and the day to day operations,”said Swinimer. “A lot of money is spent on gas because we do a lot of pickups to actually rescue the animals. It doesn’t take long to burn through tremendous amounts, food alone can cost up to $50,000 a year.”
Hope for Wildlife conducts three or four major fundraising events each year but most of their money comes from individual donations when an injured animal is dropped off.
“Someday I’d like Hope for Wildlife to be synonymous with injured wildlife,” Swinimer said. “People know that when you find injured cats or dogs you call the SPCA and I would like it to be when you find injured wildlife you call Hope for Wildlife. I want people to know that we’re here and that’s what we’re here for.”
Debbie Trahan and her husband Robb have been following Hope for Wildlife on Oasis HD, which documents the organization's operations as a weekly documentary. This was their first time visiting their location in Seaforth.
“We’ve been watching the show about them regularly and we enjoy it a great deal. We don’t miss an episode,” Trahan said. “We love wildlife, it’s such a shame when they get injured and the fact that Hope and her team rescues them is wonderful. We’ll definitely be back.”