That's why, for the past three years, the Wild at Heart Wildlife Refuge Centre has played host to an annual Wild About Comedy Night. This year's event unfolded April 14 at the Radisson Hotel.
Linda Munaretto, event organizer, said this is the organization's biggest fundraiser and that ticket sales were up this year.
“Every year it's getting bigger and better,” she said. “We have a good team.”
Attendees enjoyed a three-course meal, followed by silent and live auctions emceed by Dave Lindsay of 105.3 FM EZ Rock. Guests were treated to performances by comedians Larry Smith and Gary Owens of Comedy at Club 54.
Local artists and businesses donated many pieces of art and experiences for the live and silent auctions, such as an underground tour for four at SNOLAB, located 6,800 feet underground, which fetched $700. Money raised will be used for food and supplies to help care for many orphaned, injured or sick wild animals, which isn't cheap, according to the organization. A four-day supply of food for a bird of prey costs $50, while a month's supply of moose-milk replacer costs $100.
Dr. Rod Jouppi, owner of Walden Animal Hospital, was the Wild at Heart Wildlife Refuge Centre's founder 30 years ago. He donated the property so orphaned, injured or sick wild animals could be rehabilitated and successfully released back into the wild.
“Last year, 600 animals were helped at the Centre and the numbers continue to rise,” he said.
Up until a few years ago, the centre was nothing more than a shed with no bathroom. With an idea, a dream and some hard-working volunteers, the centre has become the only facility of its kind in northern Ontario. The building they are currently in is a work in progress, and the goal is to incorporate an education centre, where the public can visit and see wild animals in their natural habitat, through one-way glass, so the integrity of the animal is not lost.
There are big plans for the centre, which will be a “green” building and completely off the grid.
Jouppi explained that nine years ago, the Wild at Heart Refuge Centre became a registered charity. He said it is a grassroots organization and everyone is a volunteer.
There are 50 dedicated volunteers who work at the centre, including six veterinarians who donate their time to perform x-rays, administer medication and perform surgeries to orphaned and injured wild animals who have found themselves under the centre's care, he said.
Jenny Latreille, one such volunteer, said although all volunteers undergo intensive training, not all become involved with direct animal care.
“We get a lot of baby raccoons in the spring, who need to be fed every four hours,” she said, and added baby raccoons go through a lot of formula, which is why fundraising is so important. She said volunteers are also needed for carpentry work, landscaping work and work in the yard.
Brian Morrissette and his wife, Gloria, have volunteered at the centre for approximately eight years. They do it to make the animals more comfortable, Brian said.
Not all animals that seem to be in distress actually need help, Latreille said. In the spring, a lot of concerned citizens are discovering fledgling robins who have fallen out of a tree; however, baby birds found in that situation are best left alone.
“It is in the process of learning to fly and rest assured, mom is nearby as baby robins have to eat a lot,” she said. “If you find an animal and you are unsure if it is injured, call the Wild at Heart Wildlife Refuge Centre for advice.”
Anyone looking to get involved or learn more about Wild at Heart, visit www.wahrefugecentre.org or phone 705-692-4478.
Posted by Arron Pickard