Friday, January 2, 2009

Outpouring of generosity brings girl rescuer to tears

Nine-year-old Calli Vanderaa saved a puppy who was set on fire and left for dead in a dumpster. And when people read Calli’s story, they grew determined to save Christmas for her. Readers couldn’t resist showering gifts on this inner-city child who threw her Santa list away because all she really wanted to do was spend time with her dad. (Girl rescues tortured puppy from inner city war zone, Dec. 14, 2008).
Gifts poured in for Calli from Canada and the United States. But the most generous by far were kind-hearted Winnipeggers, proving once again that this city cares for its own.
I asked Calli to write to me so I could relate to you in her words what this Christmas has meant to her. Here’s what she said. I think it’s telling that she was most touched by the letters, not the presents.

There sure was a Santa this year. I had the best Christmas ever. I would like to thank all of you for writing such nice letters. I think I want to start getting into helping animals of all kinds. With everyone so busy all the time it’s easier for someone younger like me to notice the small things that need fixing our animal friends. My daddy told me there are animals all over the world that need help sometimes. Maybe one day I could help them and protect them. Thank you again everyone for all the nice things you have done for Jessie and I.

It’s true. Jessie has been well taken care of. Besides new bedding, toys and treats, the five-month-old dog has received the best gift of all – she will be spayed mid-January. Calli had been saving small change in coffee cans for the surgery, but several kind donors and veterinary clinics stepped up to offer free services without being asked.
A couple of days after Christmas, Calli showed heart again. She shared part of her bounty, taking some of her toys to the Salvation Army to help other needy children in her neighborhood. And she and dad Corey took toys and treats down to Winnipeg Humane Society for the homeless animals.
“She had a lot of fun. She really enjoyed giving out the dog treats,” Corey said.
Calli cried Christmas morning when she opened her gifts, especially when she unwrapped a signed Avril Lavigne poster. And just like her idol Avril, there will be music in Calli’s future – one person gave her a coveted Stratus guitar. She’ll be starting lessons soon.
But money couldn’t buy Calli the best present of all, granted just before New Year’s: an unprecedented three days off with her single dad, a long-haul trucker. The pair spent time going to movies and having fun together.
Calli’s already started writing thank you letters to everyone who sent her gifts and cards, so if you are among them, expect to hear from her.
I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear from Calli. She’s motivated to stay rescuing. She’s already spoken to other kids at her school about the importance of compassion and kindness towards animals.
It was Calli’s letter to her hometown paper that started it all. She wanted to tell people what happened to Jessie, and try to make things better for other animals. She tells it well, so I’ll let her say it in her own words.
“How can people do that? How can I let everyone know they shouldn’t do that?”

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