HHA 2018 Changemaker of the Year Nominee:
Written and Submitted by Terri-Viola Wilson
When you know first-hand what it’s like to have someone reach out for help with her animals because she has been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, you know how important it is to have people who will step up and say, “I would like to help you.” That is exactly why Kim Hutton gives her volunteer time to Home Hospice Association. As a Registered Vet Technician, Kim has seen the need for HHA’s Bello Project. She has not only sought to do her part, but has engaged her colleagues to get involved as well.
Kim tells the story about a friend of hers who, having few friends, little family to care for her, and living in a rural setting, was at a loss when she was diagnosed with cancer. “Being an animal lover and caregiver, her animals were her world. To give them away would have been like giving up on survival,” Kim explains. Her friend’s animals were all rescues. She had adopted them so they could live out their days knowing compassionate care and love. She needed their companionship to continue to struggle for her life. But from where would that help come? This was a big challenge. When Kim heard about HHA’s Bello project, she knew she had found a chance for change, not only in her community, but in Canada, and for people just like her friend.
Kim has taken that initial enrollment as an HHA volunteer to heart and has expanded her involvement. Working with one of the co-founders, Kim started to recruit, fundraise, train, and develop the Bello project in the Waterloo Region. She describes working with individual community member, MP Bryan May, and PSW training groups as an opportunity to “meet some very inspiring people”. They have raised funds for HHA’s Bello Project by selling dog cookies, working with Indigo Pet Photography to do a photo session, and selling Ashanti Coffee at the Hespeler Farmers’ Market. She has also attending events to educate communities about the Bello Project.
Pawcasso’s Studio is Kim’s brainchild. She had the idea that if templates, such as hearts and wine glasses were created on canvass, people might pay or donate to the Bello project, to have their pet’s paw imprinted on that canvass. Her idea took off and at the 2018 Muddy Paws and Wine Festival, HHA partnered with Featherstone and Vineland Estates Wineries, as well as Boreal Pet Foods, to offer a great package to those who donated and participated in the Pawcasso Studio. The response was far beyond expectations. With the work of volunteers, Kim’s vision became reality. Not only did people participate, but some signed up as volunteers, once they heard the details about the Bello Project.
As an RVT, Kim has started recruiting other RVT’s to the Bello Project. In her words: “We have been developing standards of care, volunteer training, and other very important foundational systems to the way we see Bello project volunteers successfully, compassionately, safely, and confidently assisting terminally ill people care for their pets.” RVT’s are being recruited across Ontario to join in mentorship to HHA volunteers in their local communities where HHA has a chapter. This is the area where Kim sees her biggest contribution to helping HHA move forward: by using her experience and passion for animal care as a volunteer mentor in the Waterloo Region.
Since volunteering with HHA, Kim has
experienced significant growth as an individual.
She sees volunteering as an opportunity for a
person to expand their horizons in ways that may
not be available through one’s work. She sites
planning, organizing, marketing, and public
speaking, as specific skills in which she would not
normally engage at work. Through these activities,
Kim feels that she has overcome some fears and
has been challenged to push herself outside her
comfort zones. She has come to understand the
challenges individual and families face when
dealing with terminal illness. This has inspired her to explicitly state in her own Will, her wishes for her pets in the event of her death.
Inspiration, in times of challenge, can come from any number of places. For Kim, it comes from nature and animals. “When I feel overwhelmed and tired I draw strength from the cheer and companionship of friends, family, and my pets,” she explains. “Sitting in a quiet spot, hearing the wind in the trees, the bubbling laughter of a brook and smelling the sweet smell of earth is how I physically and emotionally feel energy being restored to my body and mind.” In this way, Kim is able to continue to volunteer. To step up and say that she can help someone facing terminal illness maintain their bond with their pets, is an very special opportunity for Kim. “To be able to show compassion to both animals and their owners by volunteering with the Bello Project deeply satisfies me. Nurturing, caring, and providing for other living beings is in my genetic makeup.” For Kim, it’s important to be that person who stands up and says, “I want to help you.”