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Calgary pet therapy volunteers seek support for gala fundraiser to bring ‘joy to others’

It’s a big week for a Calgary organization that helps people going through tough times.

The Pet Access League Society (PALS) is preparing for its annual gala fundraising event this weekend to build some much-needed support for the group’s hardworking volunteers and their four-legged friends.

“This is our big fundraiser for the year,” explained PALS volunteer Heather Rutherford. “We’re trying to get as many people as we can to come out and join us.”

The event raises money for PALS volunteers and their pets to provide pet therapy visits at a wide variety of locations in Calgary and the surrounding area.

“We visit seniors facilities, hospitals, nursing homes.”

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Rutherford is accompanied on those visits by her dog Lucas, while fellow PALS volunteer Victoria Winslow always makes the rounds with her cat Enzo.

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“We visit people in drug and alcohol recovery, women’s shelters (and) homeless shelters,” Winslow said.

Rutherford and Winslow, along with PALS volunteer Theresa Granley and her dog Pippa, enjoyed providing support to the Chimuk family, during a chance encounter on a PALS visit to the Calgary International Airport.

The Chimuks are from Winnipeg, going through Calgary on their way home after traveling to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton.

That’s where four-year-old Ryker Chimuk underwent heart surgery to help deal with a serious condition he was born with.

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“So he’s been through a lot and we’ve been through a lot,” Ryker’s dad Jordan Chimuk said. “After you’ve been through something really stressful, pets just calm you down.

“And so that’s a huge part of healing.”

PALS volunteers say being able to help with healing is a rewarding experience.

“It’s nice seeing your pet bring joy to others,” Granley said. “We see people really light up and our pets all enjoy what they’re doing.”

The PALS fundraising event, called ‘Belle Soiree’, happens on Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Carriage House Inn on Macleod Trail South.

“It’s supporting the program and providing more pet therapy for people,” Rutherford said. “For us to be able to provide that is huge.”

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