I mentioned earlier this week that if Wilma made it this far, that I had a special cause in mind to donate any money towards, and that I'd share it if she got to this point. And here it is.
As most of you know, I worked for years in veterinary medicine, and most of those years were spent at a local emergency clinic. The work was hard and very bittersweet at times, but extremely rewarding.
One of my coworkers there was a woman named Kelli. She has literally dedicated her entire life to working with animals, and has worked with them from the age of 12 until today. In addition to working in the veterinary field, she has worked animal control, she has worked with her therapy dog to bring others joy, and she volunteers heavily with Bullmastiff rescue. If there is a Bullmastiff within the entire midwest that needs help and is brought to her organization, she drops everything and drives hundreds of miles to pick it up, take it into her home, and work with it with the goal of placing the dog in a new family. She is one of the mere handfuls of technicians nationwide who has her AVECCT certification, and in fact is so damn good at it that she screens applicants each year.
She is one of the most generous people I know as well as being unflappable in an emergency. I can't count the number of nights I spent with her and Em in the clinic.
Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. For those not familiar with it, Lou Gehrig's Disease is a
progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, and it is fatal. Muscle movement will become proegressively more difficult for Kelli, up to and including breathing and swallowing. Life between now and her passing will most likely get more and more difficult for her. It is not something I would wish for anyone, let alone someone as unstintingly generous and caring as Kelli.
The thing that always makes me the saddest is thinking about her harp. Kelli has this huge harp that she loves to play, and she's quite good at it. She would always lug it along to the clinic on Wednesdays because those were her harp lesson days, and sometimes she'd play it for us. When I think of her being less and less able to play her harp...I don't know, it just crystallizes and becomes real for me in that moment, and I always get choked up.
She has, quite literally, dedicated her entire life to helping dogs. Even now, she is still working at the profession which she loves, and will continue to work as long as she can. But the stark reality of it is that life will become more and more difficult, and that can't last forever, though we all want it to. Everyone at the clinic has been trying to raise money for her, to make life a little easier for her as her disease progresses and finances become tighter. Her life is hard enough now; no one wants her to worry about things like mortgages and medical bills and how to get from day to day. After an entire lifetime of giving, we all feel it's time to give back.
I originally entered Wilma in this contest as a lark, as something silly and fun to do. But by last weekend when she really began to rack up votes, I began thinking that there was an opportunity here to help Kelli. Any prize money that Wilma wins will go straight to Kelli, and I will do my damndest to match it myself.
If you've ever had a pet that you've been worried about and had someone help you, if you've ever called me in the middle of the night worried and asked for advice, if you've ever felt badly for a stray animal, if you've ever appreciated the kind of work and generosity that people like Kelli spend their lives on, now's your chance to pay it back, or to pay it forward.
If you can spare anything, I am also collecting donations on her behalf. You can paypal funds to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and by the end of the day I should have a separate paypal account set up for Kelli. Either way, 100% of all donations will go straight to helping her out.
But if you can't afford that and I know times are tough for many of us, I would consider it a very personal favor to vote for Wilma as often as you can, and to spread the word by reposting this. It's a way to still help Kelli's cause without hurting your pocketbook, and I can't think of a more worthy or appropriate cause.
Voting is now changed to once per hour instead of once per minute. Please please vote for Wilma, and if you can spare it, please consider a donation for Kelli.
It's not for me. I've had my fun over the past 10 days; now I want to help someone else. And the more and more I thought about it, the more and more it just seemed appropriate that after all she's done to help dogs, to have a dog help Kelli for once.