The Kootenay Ice and B.C. SPCA's East Kootenay Branch are coming together to present Tennis Balls on Ice this Friday

The Kootenay Ice and B.C. SPCA's East Kootenay Branch are coming together to present Tennis Balls on Ice this Friday

B.C. SPCA’s East Kootenay Branch partners with Kootenay Ice for fundraiser

B.C. SPCA's East Kootenay Branch & WHL's Kootenay Ice come together to present Tennis Balls on Ice this Friday, Feb. 5

Operating a not-for profit organization without financial assistance from provincial or federal governments isn’t an easy task and it’s a challenge the B.C. SPCA’s East Kootenay Branch faces head on year after year.

“We are always fundraising, that’s probably our biggest challenge — raising funds,” said Brenna Baker, branch manager for the B.C. SPCA’s East Kootenay Branch. “We don’t receive any federal or provincial funding at our branch. Our operational costs are over $500,000 a year and we have to do a lot of fundraising.”

Located outside Cranbrook on Highway 3 towards Fernie, the East Kootenay Branch sees hundreds of animals pass through its doors annually. With that, one of the most significant line items on Baker’s budget comes in the form of veterinary bills associated with injured and neglected animals.

The local SPCA branch spent more than $85,000 on veterinary bills and costs last year. This year, Baker estimates veterinary costs will exceed last year’s mark, further increasing the importance of fundraising efforts in the early months of 2016.

It doesn’t take much to rack up an expensive vet bill. As an example, one malnourished and injured dog recently brought into the care of the local shelter has already required more than $500 of veterinary care after undergoing x-rays and other procedures.

Thankfully, the young pup is on its way to recovery, with a broken leg healing properly and having gained some muscle and weight back after being left hungry.

“I don’t know if people are getting more responsible or not,” Baker said, “but we are seeing our [animal in-take] numbers are down a little bit from last year. But it changes all the time.”

While day-to-day operations continue, the branch has partnered with the Western Hockey League’s Kootenay Ice and Cranbrook’s Save-On-Foods for one of its first fundraisers of the year.

Tennis Balls on Ice is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 5, during the second intermission of action between the Kootenay Ice and Red Deer Rebels (7 p.m. at Western Financial Place).

“A lot of people are animal lovers, myself included. It’s a very worthwhile cause,” said Chris Wahl, director of sales and public relations for the Ice, outside the B.C. SPCA’s East Kootenay Branch Monday afternoon.

For $5, folks can purchase a numbered tennis ball. At the second intermission, each numbered tennis ball will find its way onto the ice surface at Western Financial Place, at which time four eager and enthusiastic canines will charge out to select four winners.

“You like to say the entertainment has gone to the dogs, so to speak,” Wahl said with a laugh. “It’s something different. You don’t expect to go to a hockey game and see a golden retriever running around at centre ice. I hope people get a kick out of it.”

During the 2015 edition of Tennis Balls on Ice, more than $2,500 was raised for the local branch.

The hope is to eclipse that mark this year. With great prizes up for grabs, there are plenty of reasons for excitement.

First, there is a return flight for two to Vancouver or Kelowna with Pacific Coastal Airlines. Second, there is a $1,000 bed courtesy of Bridge Interiors. Third is a stay-and-play package from St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino. Finally, fans have a chance to win four rounds of golf, including power cart, from Cranbrook Golf Club.

Baker’s operation has been recognized for its phenomenal work in the East Kootenay in recent years, being named the 2015 B.C. SPCA Branch of the Year back in May.

Outside of Tennis Balls on Ice, there are a number of ways for people to support the B.C. SPCA’s East Kootenay Branch.

The shelter is always in need of volunteers and fundraising. Those interested in supporting the local branch are encouraged to contact the shelter via phone (250-426-6751), email (eastkootenay@spca.ca) or by visiting in person at 3339 Highway 3 & 95.

The Kootenay Ice strive to work with as many community groups as possible over the course of the year. According to Wahl, the club is always interested to hear from groups throughout the region in regards to partnering for community events.

Groups interested in partnering with the Ice are encouraged to contact Wahl via phone (250-417-0322), email (cwahl@kootenayice.net) or by visiting the team office, located inside Western Financial Place.

The East Kootenay Branch of the B.C. SPCA serves the communities of Canal Flats, Cranbrook, Edgewater, Elkford, Elko, Fairmont Hot Springs, Invermere, Jaffray, Kimberley, Radium Hot Springs, Scookumchuk, Wasa and Windermere.