PHOTOS: Centre for sick cats revealed at Langley gala

It was Ken McBride’s first time at the Furry Tail Endings gala on Saturday night, but the Walnut Grove retiree insists it will not be his last.

The night will forever be engrained in his memory, in large part because he was recognized as one of the most outstanding volunteers for Langley Animal Protection Society.

 But, it didn’t hurt that McBride and his wife Charmaine also won a $5,000 dream vacation anywhere. The LAPS travel lottery kicked off in early and culminated with the draw at this weekend’s gala, helping raise $14,000 towards the night’s estimated fundraising tally of $90,000, said Sean Baker, executive director of the Langley Animal Protection Society.

“I’m just so glad that Ken won, not just because he’s an incredible volunteer and does so much for us, but just because I think he and his wife will really appreciate the trip,” Baker said.

McBride, 70, and his wife were still undecided Monday as to where they’d travel with the money, but McBride said he might return to his homeland of North Ireland for a visit.

Ken, the can man lauded

About 10 years back, McBride took up walking dogs a few times a week for LAPS.

While the dog lover enjoyed his volunteer duties, he felt he could do more. Fast forward a few years, and he strolled into the shelter manager’s office in 2007, pitching the idea of distributing collection cans to businesses around town that would encourage people to part with their spare change for the sake of the animals.

“I must admit that my initial reaction was not entirely positive,” Baker said.

“I had been approached by others in the past with great ideas, but that was all they were willing to contribute. They had the ideas and wanted me to do the work. But my mood quickly changed when [McBride] said the magical words that any manager loves to hear ‘I will do all the work’.”

McBride offered to organize the cans and “pound the pavement” to promote the cause.

“So, with nothing to lose, I agreed to his idea, shoot his hand, and wished him the best of luck. And, as he left my office, I did not expect to see him again.”

One month later, he was back in Baker’s office with $500.

“I didn’t know what to say,” Baker said.

Since that first month, the dollar value gradually increased. He now hands in “eight crisp $100 bills” each month and is credited with raising more than $65,000 in spare change.

“That is truly outstanding,” Baker said, calling McBride “amazing.”

“Ken McBride, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for ever doubting you,” Baker said, presenting him with a new, and not annual lifetime fundraiser award.

“It is a special award that is meant to honour a very special LAPS volunteer who has truly done something extraordinary.”

McBride shrugs off attention, saying he loves contributing. It takes him about six to eight hours a week to distributing and collecting the cans from 15 locations around town, as well as count and roll the coin.

“I sure wasn’t anticipating any award… I’d continued doing it, whether I get an award, or not,” he said, hoping to keep it up for another 20 years – at least.

It’s also his goal., McBride said, to raise a quarter million dollars “before I leave this earth.”

He’s “very appreciative” of the award, and said it has already been given a place of honour on his fireplace mantel, amid his family photos.

Cat isolation idea unveiled

The seventh annual LAPS gala, according to Baker, was the “most successful” to date.

“We anticipate that our net on the night will exceed $90,000,” all of which is earmarked for a new, free-standing building dedicated solely to the care of sick cats requiring isolation.

The cat “ISO oasis,” as it has been dubbed, will cost upwards of $400,000 and given the money raised directly from gala tickets, auctions, and 50/50, Baker said Monday that LAPS appears to already be a third of the way there – maybe more, he said.

On Saturday night, a number of individuals and business owners on hand also pledged money to help build the new centre. That money had not been calculated into the fundraiser total, but Baker estimated it could be another $50,000, at least.

Two years ago, LAPS introduced the concept of a new building on the Aldergrove site that could help cats, but Baker didn’t know exactly what that should look like at the time.

After what he summarized as hundreds of cases of ringworm, multiple cases of caliche virus, and countless cases of upper respiratory infections and other afflictions, the need has become crystal clear,” he said. “We need a building to help the lost, free-living and feral  cats in Langley. Specifically we need a building to care for the sick ones… it’s going to be fantastic.”

“I was really encouraged by the positive response to the cat ISO Oasis introduction,” Baker said Monday. “I believe that we will be able to meet our goal of building it within a year.”

• Click here for more photos from the event

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