Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Yes, Calli, there is a Santa Claus...and his name is Winterpeg

Calli gives her little friend Jessie a big kiss.

When readers learned this week about nine-year-old Calli and her rescue of a tortured puppy, the response to her act of kindness was immediate and overwhelming. (Girl rescues tortured puppy from inner city war zone, Dec. 14, 2008).
Emails from around North America started pinging my box and that of Winnipeg Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair Jr. People were touched by her story of survival in the inner city slums. And her devotion to her dad. But mainly they were moved to tears because of her compassion towards animals.

Calli chucked her Christmas list in favor of spending time with her dad, but thanks to the generosity of Free Press and Modern Dog readers, she’s not going without gifts this year. She’ll have a tree to put up, and it won't go bare.

Here are samples from the mailbag. There were many more, and they are still coming. I’d recommend having some tissues nearby to dry your eyes.

And your letters keep rolling in...

This story has really taken me aback. My eyes teared up after reading about Corey and Calli Vanderaa. Now here's a father who is ultimately doing his best to bring up his daughter in a loving home, albeit with the odds stacked against him. The compassion he showed in rescuing their dog Jessie is minor compared to his compassion and dedication to his daughter Calli. It's times like this that I wish I had won a "portion" of the 649 and could give to him, so that he could move into a safe and secure neighbourhood where Calli would be able to ride her bike, walk to the park, and for that matter, be outdoors without parental supervision. When I look out my kitchen window, I smile at the kids sliding down the snow hill in the park behind our home. Then I think of Calli who might never get to experience these "givens" that our kids have enjoyed. Wow, what an eye opener! I can also see that Calli is a very smart and bright young girl, who like her Dad, won't let the odds beat them down. Her poetry shows just how articulate she is! Bottom line, both Corey and Calli deserve a much-needed break!!
I would like to send a cheque to Corey so that he and his daughter can enjoy a one-on-one day, outside of their home...maybe go to an afternoon movie, do a little shopping and then dinner, to help celebrate in the Christmas season. I know the two of them would have an absolutely fabulous "Dad and Daughter Day!"

Virtually every day is a "good morning" for myself and my family. We are so fortunate to enjoy good health, happiness, have super family and friends, and live in our home in a wonderful neighbourhood. Both my husband and I work full time in secure and steady jobs, and have the time to spend with our two teenage daughters.
What I am wondering is, has Calli’s dog been neutered or spayed? If not, I would like to pay for this surgery for Jesse. I know how expensive having a pet can be and in these difficult economic times, this is a bill that even people who have a little money stored away, wince at. Please do let me know. This is the least that I can do for this precious child and her father.

If Corey ever needs help should his mother take ill, whether it is during the day, evening or even an overnighter, I would do it. I was a Big Sister for 13 yrs and a foster parent to several kids over the years. I'd spend time getting Corey's trust before I ever helped him out, that's a given. Jessie is welcome too as I just got a dog two months ago for my son and the pup would love the company...4 mths old now with monster

I just read your story about Calli and her dog. I have been a rescuer of animals since I can remember. Bringing home every wayward creature that crossed my path. Today, I foster for a rescue group and have three adopted dogs of my own. I want to do something to help Calli and her family and encourage her to hold onto her kindness in the face of a not-so-kind world. Any suggestions? Thank You.

My heart and best wishes go out to the Vanderaa family and the puppy. Can you pass something along to them for me? As long as the father has a steady income and other conditions are in place that can show there is need for decent, affordable housing, he MAY qualify for a 'hand up' from Habitat for Humanity. If he is willing to partner with Habitat, and go through the application and selection process, he MAY be eligible for an interest-free loan for a new home in a better area of town, with payment terms that align with his income level. No one should have to raise a child under those conditions but there are options for him to pursue, if he so chooses.

I read your article about Calli Vanderaa and her father in today's paper and teared up with emotion. What an extraordinary job her father must be doing to raise a daughter with such compassion amidst such conditions. I too have a daughter, actually I have 5 children, but I am writing about 1 in particular. My oldest child, Christina, is a Biology Major student at the University of Manitoba, and hopes to continue on in medical school. Christina knows that she is fortunate and it has always been important for her to give back to her community.
This brings me to my story. As I said, she is attending university and plans to for several years. As you can imagine, her room is quickly filling up with textbooks. Christina has always been somewhat of a packrat unable to part with anything. She still has a collection of Barbie furniture and an entire series of Ann Martin's Baby-Sitters Little Sister books. She has been unable to part with these as she has always taken extremely good care of her belongings and they had to go to a good home.
Although Christina always receives Christmas presents, she never really needs anything, in her words. Her one request was for clean water for a family from World Vision. I would like to give her the opportunity to help someone in her own community if possible by donating her Barbie furniture and book collection to a good home, Calli Vanderaa's home. We also have a pink and purple two-wheel bike, nothing fancy, and a GT snow racer still hanging in our garage which they are more than welcome to. I know that this would be the best Christmas present that I could give my daughter and hopefully we can help Calli believe that there are still a lot of good people in Winnipeg.

I found my 10 year old daughter (Madi) today reading the paper and crying. I asked her what was wrong and she showed me your article. Now, for Madi who is a HUGE animal lover the tears came from the abusive situation the pup was found in. She couldn't even read the whole article because it upset her too much to continue to even understand the depth of Calli's life. I read the article and had tears in my eyes. Not just because the abusive life she is surrounded by but also because there is a child who just wants extra time with her dad.
Surely there is a contact YOU MUST HAVE to Avril Lavigne to get her more than a poster. I feel compelled to send this article to Avril herself and see if anything is done about it. I realize there is a code of discretion amongst reporters and the "Stars" but I also know there is always an in as my husband was a Professional Hockey Player for 16 years in Europe. I'm sure Avril too would feel compelled to do something for this young child at Christmas.
It's worth a try seeing it is Christmas and the Spirit of giving is the air full force this time of year.
a Mother who hates to see Christmas Wishes unmet.

After reading Calli Vanderaa's story in your column today FFFAS thought that a young girl who has witnessed so much tragedy in her young life definitely deserves to be rewarded and recognized for her humanity and compassion.
The Board of Directors from FFFAS would like to provide Calli with a gift of $100 to spend as she wishes and also present the Vanderaa family with a "Little Critters" gift basket for Jessie. Her father Corey should be commended for all that he has taught her.
Friends Fundraising for Animal Shelters

I realize your column today on Corey, Calli and Jessie wasn’t a call for financial help but perhaps a look at how little one may have in a not so great neighborhood and still be able to show compassion and love for our less fortunate companion animals. As rescuers of cats and dogs in Winnipegosis we have come to know the unconditional love these felines and canines give. Calli and Corey have made their lives better by rescuing and caring for Jessie. We would be willing to pay for spaying and shots at a veterinary clinic for her if it has not already been done. Please relay this message to them and thank them for a job well done. Thanks.
Garry and Diane

Calli reminds me of my daughter, Ali; who is similarly kind and caring and who has a huge soft spot for animals. Children certainly have a way of reminding us adults about what is really important in life; spending time with the people (and animals) we love.
My family and I would like to do something for Calli; we would like to get her something for under her tree (perhaps an Avril Lavigne poster?), and we would also like to contribute some food for Jessie (or cash for food, whatever is most convenient for Calli and her father.) Thank you.

I have two little girls of my own aged 7 and 9 and I am always trying to think of ways that I can teach them lessons in life. Our family would like to offer a Christmas hamper that we will fill with gifts and food for both Calli and Jessie. I know all about Avril Lavigne as my 7 and 9 year old are fans as well.
My husband and I are both phys ed teachers in the south end. The happiness and safety of our children both at home and at our work are priority no.1. Not only would we very much love to help Calli have a great Christmas but would also like to help in any future crisis that they may have.
If you could inform Corey that if there is ever anything I could help with in terms of babysitting or merely picking up Calli after school now and again because he is busy working or his mom is too ill or unavailable to make it, I would be more than willing to help out with that. Calli would probably enjoy playing with my two daughters. We also have two dogs ourselves and Jessie is more than welcome to come to our house. We could also take the place of a kennel if ever they go away for a week or two and cannot take Jessie with them.

I find this article so very sad as I am a dog lover. I have 3 dogs and 1 cat of my own and cant believe people could do this to animals. The reason I am writing to you I was so moved by your letter about Cali and her xmas list. We would like to get a xmas gift certificate for her so her and her Dad Corey can go shopping to spoil her a little for Santa. My husband is also a truck driver and it breaks our hearts to hear about this father and his little girl. No child should go through Xmas without gifts. I would very much like to do this for this little girl. Sincerely yours
I was incredibly touched by the humane values that this girl's father has instilled in his daughter. I found it very uplifting to know that there are still amazing people in this world.
It being the holiday season, I know how tight budgets can be for many families. Growing up as a child, many years our family would turn to the wonderful people at the Christmas Cheer Board to be able to have presents under the tree on Christmas morning. At the time I did not realize that we were poor, I did not know that the presents came from the kindness of strangers. I was just a kid and I was happy to open a present.
As the years went by and my parents were able to improve our financial situation and we no longer need the Christmas Cheer Board for support. One of my favorite traditions that my parents started was making sure that not only the kids had presents on Christmas morning, but so did our pets. They'd take us out shopping and allow us to pick something out that we wanted to give to our pets. A nice toy to play with, or some special treats. They taught us that Christmas was about giving to others, not about receiving.
I wanted to make sure that Calli had a gift that she could give to Jessie for the holidays. On the way home from work today I'll be stopping by Petland to pick out a nice dog toy for Jessie.

I'm normally a guy who keeps his emotions in check, but i found myself tearing up when i read your article. As a dog lover myself, i appreciate calli's and her fathers efforts to rescue their dog. My fiance and i don't have children and are in a stable home environment with a dog i rescued 10 years ago. i told my fiance julie when she got home, that i'd like to give calli and her father presents for christmas, instead of me. I'd also like to talk to her father about the idea of getting a job where i work here in winnipeg. His drivers licence and obvious work ethic would bring him a good wage, and would let him be home every night with his daughter. can you relay this message to him?

Wow, what a meaningful Xmas story this is about Calli and her dad. Calli and her Dad, I suppose, to themselves, are a very ordinary family, doing all the day to day things they need and want to do to make their lives complete...but Calli and her Dad are not an ordinary family at all...they are extraordinary. Calli has faced challenges that many of us will never know about, never see and never understand. Her dad works hard for all the right reasons and spends precious time with his little girl. They rescued a dog from disgusting circumstances ( that no little girl should see) and made him an important part of their family.
Life is good!!!!!!!!....when you read these things.
I would like to share with Calli, what I have, by giving her an Xmas gift (or
2). Could you please let me know how to get something to her.

I read your article regarding Calli and her father and I am writing you to ask if you could assist me in providing this child with a Christmas gift. I am so impressed with the actions taken by this little girl and her dad in rescuing the puppy, Jessie, and actually providing her with a home, love and medical attention. Many others with more would have taken the puppy to the Humane Society or a Rescue but these kind people took her in and loved her proving they are in possession of very big hearts.
I realize Calli asked for more time with her daddy for Christmas which, of course, I can not provide, but I would like to give her a Christmas gift. I would like to donate $50.00 toward a gift for this little girl and I would appreciate it if you could assist me in doing this. If you could reply back to me and let me know if you remember something that was on her list or perhaps something she needs or even let me know if I could drop off a gift card at your office; anything would help me. Thank you.

By the time I finished reading your story about Calli I was crying. Not only because of amid hardships and hard knocks of life a little girl can still blossom and grow and learn compassion, but because it occurred to me I know some of these people, yet I really I don't know them at all. Let me explain. Betty and I worked together in a jewellery store located at St.Vital Mall for a number of years. In fact my husband sold her the condo she lives in and we became sort of friends. We went our separate ways but connected periodically and caught up with what happened since the last time we spoke. Over the years she spoke about all the difficulties Cory went through, and there were many, and that life was just not giving him a break and how that saddens her. She told me Cory moved to the North End with Calli but never once said how tough the neighbourhood was. She matter-of-factly related going to Cory's house every day so Calli can go to school near her home.
She was the one constant positive force in Cory's and Calli's life when so many other negative factors influenced their lives. And like I said there were many. Over the years she just related what is going on with her family, how hard Cory is working and how she is hoping all the negative events stop happening to him. Calli came with her a few times and she is indeed a bright and lovely young girl. Never once I felt she was feeling sorry for herself or wanted me to feel sorry for her, only that she is trying to help her family because that is the way it should be.
This is one deserving family who truly and finally needs a little break. I, for one would want to contribute something financially and am sure there are others who feel the same way. Thank you,

I wish that half the people in this town could have a sliver of the size of Calli's heart. Then, perhaps, we wouldn't have to read about animals or people for that matter being neglected and mistreated.
Kudos to her father for being the best dad he can be and raising such a wonderful little girl. May we all learn a lesson from Calli and her father.
May the Christmas Spirit shine bright for all to see.

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