Having the Winnipeg Jets back has had a massive impact on pretty much everyone in Winnipeg and across Manitoba. The Winnipeg Pet Rescue shelter, a small non-profit charity organization on West Portage Avenue is just one of many who have really felt the positive impact of the Jets return. The ‘No-Kill’ animal shelter has had more adoptions in the past year then ever before.
It all started from the idea to name puppies at the shelter after Jets players. That small idea grabbed the attention of the Winnipeg Jets and a story was posted to the Winnipeg Jets website and other social media platforms. The story quickly went viral and within a day or two, several local newspapers, radio stations and TV stations were spreading the story across Winnipeg.
“Our adoption rate went up (since naming the puppies),” said Founder and Director of the shelter, Carla Martinelli-Irvine. “Everyone wants to adopt Blake or Bryan or Ladd, and it’s just been terrific. They’ve all gone to loving homes. Things have been really wonderful since they wrote the article about us.”
Pictures of the puppies were seen by some of the Jets players and the word was out in the dressing room. Players began re-tweeting and re-posting photos of the puppies sporting their names.
“It went around the team,” said Jets forward Bryan Little. “We all went on the website and started look at the dogs and the names, it was pretty cool. It was cute to see the dogs with our names and I think it definitely helped get the word out. I heard quite a few of them got adopted after that too.”
Forward Blake Wheeler saw his puppy’s picture and offered to donate his jersey to the person who would adopt that puppy. He honored his promise.
“My wife Sam first caught wind of it and followed the shelter on twitter,” Wheeler explained. “She saw that there were a few puppies named after Jets players and I thought that was a really good idea…to get the word out there a little bit more. It was fun to see what dogs were named after what guys...some more fitting than others! It was a fun way to get more awareness around the city.”
Sam had been following the Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter on twitter and had been looking to get out in the community and donate her time to a good cause. Being a dog lover and owner herself, this opportunity fit the bill.
Little’s girlfriend Brittney, joined Sam to began helping at the shelter. After a couple of months volunteering, the two couples decided to organize an autograph session to create more awareness and raise money for the shelter.
“We are Manitoba’s first NO-Kill animal shelter that was registered as a charity,” explained Martinelli-Irvine. “We move about 1000 animals per year. We are donor supported and receive no funding from the city or the government and we rely on the good citizens of Winnipeg to keep us going.”
On March 17th, Blake and Bryan visited the shelter at the Helping Hero fundraiser. To their surprise, hundreds of fans and dog lovers were lined up to donate a minimum of five dollars to the shelter, in exchange for a meet and greet with two of their favourite Jets players.
“Bryan and myself are both huge dog lovers, we have dogs ourselves,” said Wheeler. “We thought it would be a great way for people to come out to the shelter and donate their money and we donate our time and it all goes to a good cause. It’s a no-kill shelter and they do a great job of taking in dogs that need homes and finding a good home for them.”
Over 800 fans showed up at the shelter for the fundraiser to donate to the animals.
“It’s crazy... the power of social media,” said Wheeler. “You start tweeting a few things and especially with the buzz around the city with the Jets, it's crazy. Bryan and I were driving practice to get some lunch and we saw the line forming. It’s great that the people came out the way they did. It’s a great cause and a great place to meet and greet some loveable pets.”
The shelter brought in $5690.32 of donations that afternoon. In addition to Bryan and Blake donating their time, the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club got on board with the event and donated a game-used Tobias Enstrom signed stick, two Jets hoody's, two Jets hats, two inaugural pucks signed by Wheeler and Little and a full team signed Jets jersey that were all used as prizes for all monthly donors.
“It was great to see the turnout of people that come and support this,” said Little. “It’s a non-profit organization and I think Blake and I donating our time to raise some money for the shelter makes us feel good because it’s such a great cause.”
A pair of tickets for the Jets vs. Carolina Hurricanes for the March 18th game, were also donated by one of the friends of the shelter that were raffled off after the event.
“Everyone that came in has seen the need to keep us going here,” said Martinelli-Irvine. “All of our cages are full and over three hundred animals waiting to come into the shelter and we need people to continue to support us. So people might come in and remember us when they want to adopt or if somebody needs help with their pet they’ll know that we’re here to help them.”
The generosity continued as the Wheeler's had an even bigger hand at the annual Winnipeg Pet Shelter Survivor Gala, which was held at the Gates on Roblin on April 26th. Blake and Sam donated two team signed, framed jerseys as well as an adventure trip for two to Orlando, Florida, that were all auctioned off at the gala. The Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club also donated a framed picture of the opening face-off, signed by the captain, Andrew Ladd.
The donated Jets signed jerseys raised $7,800 at the live auction with all proceeds going directly to the shelter.
The Winnipeg Pet Rescue Shelter and their puppies, cannot thank Blake and Sam Wheeler, Bryan Little and his girlfriend Brittney enough for their caring and generous efforts over the past few months. The lives they have saved and the impact they have had on the shelter has been immeasurable.
Author: Kristi Hennessy
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