By Beth Peralta
“You don’t know what a relief this is …” says the 90-year-old woman. “She is 83 and we’ve been friends for over 40 years. She was admitted into the Alzheimer’s ward last week. She always had cats. I just didn’t know what was going to happen to Sunny. I couldn’t imagine her being put down.”
The elderly distraught woman called nearly every rescue and shelter in Chicago searching for a safe place for 12-year-old Sunny. She called us, and to her disbelief, we were willing to help. Every place else said no. — Hospice Hearts Facebook post, Jan. 1, 2016.
Run by volunteers, funded by donations and fierce in its mission, Hospice Hearts is an animal rescue organization based in Champaign-Urbana. Hospice Hearts focuses on saving cats and dogs whose owners are unable to care for them as a result of nursing home admission, illness, or death, through foster home-based rescue.
According to Jessica Sempek, director and founder of Hospice Hearts, these are often pets that are extremely well-loved and pampered, but may do poorly in a shelter environment or get turned down by rescues in favor of younger dogs or cats.
“Many of them would be euthanized,” Sempek said. Enter Hospice Hearts, which currently is full at a census of 25 orphaned pets as of Jan. 23.
How can those in the Champaign-Urbana area help Hospice Hearts in saving these pets? There are lots of ways to help, Sempek said.
• Foster or adopt pets: To foster or adopt pets accepted into Hospice Hearts, you need to fill out an application, which is located on its website. Fosters need to be located within an hour of Champaign-Urbana and able to drive the pet to veterinarian appointments. Homes that are more quiet are well-suited to fostering, and older kids can be a great help. Adoptable pets can be seen on its Petfinder page, which details not only information about the pet, but also if the pet will do well in a home with children, other pets, etc.
• Volunteer: There are many opportunities to volunteer for Hospice Hearts. “You can be as involved as you’d like,” Sempek said. There are many upcoming opportunities to volunteer, such as at adoption events around the area, transporting assistance for pets to get from one location to the next, and new “Catfes” which will take place during the day at senior centers. Families are welcome to volunteer together at adoption events and past transport trips have been really exciting for children. “They are really excited that they are part of saving an animal’s life,” Sempek said. Volunteer opportunities are posted frequently on its Facebook page.
• Donations (monetary and supplies): Hospice Hearts is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization in Illinois and accepts monetary donations and supply donations. According to its website, 90 percent of all monetary donations directly fund veterinary care for the pets. There is also a donation list for supplies, accepted at Good Friends Animal Hospital in Urbana, which includes items like clumping kitty litter and collars. You can view the whole list and donation details here.
• Fundraising: This is an amazing way to show support! From lemonade stands to local businesses giving a percentage of sales, fundraising can lead to a large donation. Area children have also “adopted” Hospice Hearts for birthday parties, by having guests bring donations from their wish list instead of presents.
Beth Peralta is a mother of two, wife, registered dietitian nutritionist, sometimes-runner, and coffee addict. She has been living in Champaign-Urbana nearly nonstop (minus two semesters of grad school and three summers) since 1998. Follow her on Twitter @simplybethP for assorted posts related to food, recipes, Illini, health, and more.