After a successful first year, the Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation (AIWC) is bringing back its Work Out for Wildlife (WOW) fundraiser from Aug. 1 to 21.
First initiated in 2019, WOW asks participants to set individual fitness goals for the month of August, while raising money for the Madden-based animal hospital.
“What I really like about WOW is that you don’t need to share your goal,” said AIWC’s executive director, Holly Lillie. “If you want to, that’s great, and we have a hashtag – #workoutforwildlife."
The fitness goals could be anything, according to Lillie, whether it's taking a walk every day, running, biking or following a yoga routine. Goals are tracked using the Strava app, which also allows for connection and interaction among participants.
"I think it’s a great thing to do throughout the month of August," she said. "You get to get outside and reconnect with nature and your own fitness goals.”
According to Lillie, the inaugural WOW fundraiser generated more than $9,000, and the non-profit institute’s goal is to surpass the $10,000 mark this year.
The proceeds will support AIWC’s efforts to help injured or orphaned wildlife, she added, including the cost of food, supplies and facility-related expenses.
As of July 30, this year's 12 entrants had already raised more than $1,200 collectively, according to AIWC’s website.
Interested participants can register at trellis.org/workout-for-wildlife. There is a $25 registration fee, but Lillie said participants will receive a tax receipt and some AIWC-themed swag.
WOW also includes a weekly draw prize, including gift certificates to various businesses, like Nakiska Ski Area, Heritage Park in Calgary and Tail Blazers pet store.
Entrants can also receive additional prizes when they raise a certain amount, such as $300, $500 and $1,000. Prizes include tote bags, WOW T-shirts and free tickets to future on-sight talks at AIWC.
“Definitely, at certain milestones, they’ll be awarded with different items we will mail to them to stay safe and reduce any unnecessary contact,” Lillie said. “We really want to encourage people to go to their friends, family and co-workers to ask for sponsorship.”
After the fundraiser wraps up, the top pledge earner will receive an 18-by-24-inch oil canvass painting by Alberta artist Crystal Driedger. According to Lillie, the painting depicts the first black bear AIWC rehabilitated after the provincial government implemented new guidelines for caring for black bears.
The second prize includes a 12-by-30-inch canvass from Canadian Rockies-based Albino Muppet Photography, and a Patagonia backpack. The participant who raises the third most will win a one-night stay at the Stoney Nakoda Resort and Casino.
AIWC has been kept characteristically busy in 2020, according to Lillie, who said the animal hospital has seen a 28 per cent increase in animals admitted compared to the same time last year.
According to AIWC's website, the institute provided care to more than 1,400 orphaned and injured wildlife patients in 2019. Each year, the facility admits more than 150 different species in need of care, and answers hundreds of telephone calls from the public on its wildlife hotline.
“This time of year is our peak for caring for wildlife in need,” she said. “We’re open year-round, but we see a lot more patients during the spring and summer.”
She said there are many factors that have contribute to AIWC’s increased demand.
“I think over time, more awareness has been raised about our wildlife centre and other centres in the province as well,” she said. “There are resources members of the public can utilize to help wildlife.”
The pandemic could also be a factor, she added, as more people could be happening upon these animals while out for a stroll in their neighbourhoods.
“In the past, animals were maybe still being injured but not being found,” she said.
“[People now] know to help these animals and they’re finding these animals where, otherwise, they wouldn’t be found.”
Lillie reminds anyone who comes across injured or orphan wildlife to call AIWC's wildlife hotline at 403-946-2361.