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Pandemic shuts down Hope for Wildlife's biggest fundraiser, online raffle launched instead (19 photos)

The wildlife rehabilitation centre's annual open house attracts thousands of people and brings in upwards of $40,000. An online raffle has been launched to help make up for the lost funds. 

Since 2001, Hope for Wildlife has held a special event in August that allows the public to get a behind-the-scenes look at wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. Like many other large events, the non-profit made the call to cancel its annual open house this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Hope for Wildlife founder Hope Swinimer says the decision wasn't made lightly. 

"It's very sad to have to cancel something that has been such a big part of Hope for Wildlife," she says. "I can remember at our very first open house we had about 35 people and it was a great time. Now anywhere from three to four thousand people show up for the event."

Swinimer says the open house is a valuable tool to help educate the public on local wildlife and the role of the rehabilitation centre, but it also brings in enough donations to help it stay up and running through the winter. She says in recent years, the weekend event has generated more than $40,000.

"Not having the money coming in will surely impact us, and we are trying to think outside the box with new and better ways to fundraise," she says. 

This Friday, Hope for Wildlife launched an online 50/50 draw to help make up for the cancelled open house. Tickets are being sold now and can be bought up until Friday, September 11. The name of the lucky winner will be randomly picked on Saturday, September 12 and streamed live on Facebook. 

Hope for Wildlife's last raffle raised more than $100,000 for the facility, with the winner taking home the same amount. 

Donations can also be made on the Hope for Wildlife website. A tax receipt will be mailed out once the donation has been processed.

"We have been seeing a tremendous amount of interest in caring from the general public and that's really helping us through these difficult times," says Swinimer. "Thank you."

While the pandemic slowed down much of modern society, Swinimer says it sped up work in the rehabilitation world. 

According to Swinimer, the facility has seen a 27.5 per cent increase in the number of injured and orphaned wildlife in its care. 

"I attribute it to the fact that people are out enjoying nature more," she says. "We are seeing more and more patients arrive and our phones are busy too, which is kind of a bright spot in all of this - that people are getting outside and closer to nature."

To date, Hope for Wildlife has rescued, rehabilitated, and released over 50,000 animals back to the wild and assists over 20,000 callers annually through its wildlife helpline.

The rehabilitation centre is now offering public tours on Saturday and Sunday between 12-4 p.m. Social distancing measures are in place and masks are required. 

Katie Hartai

About the Author: Katie Hartai

In addition to being a reporter for NEWS 95.7 and, Katie is the producer of The Rick Howe Show
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