Tara Hellewell

Tara Hellewell

A date with a legend

Meeting the famed chimpanzee researcher and animal welfare advocate Jane Goodall earlier this month was a lifetime highlight for Tara Hellewell, Red Deer and District SPCA executive director.

Meeting the famed chimpanzee researcher and animal welfare advocate Jane Goodall earlier this month was a lifetime highlight for Tara Hellewell, Red Deer and District SPCA executive director.

“It was amazing. She had just celebrated her 80th birthday … I thought: I hope I’m still making presentations at 80,” said Hellewell, who was recently elected to the board of directors of the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies. “And she thanked us for the work we were doing, which was just wonderful.”

Hellewell, 41, met Goodall in Toronto while attending the CFHS National Animal Welfare Conference from April 12 to 15. It was the first conference hosted by the federation in 10 years.

While the majority of community-based humane societies operate as separate entities, there’s been a recent push for a more united front with the federation, Hellewell said.

The conference brought together like-minded people and speakers from across Canada to network and discuss information on the humane movement.

“There was good discussion on animal testing in our country, which is something we don’t always think about happening right here in Canada,” she said.

“For me, the conference highlighted the need to start talking more about farm animals within our local SPCA.”

Hellewell hopes to help boost the Western Canada presence in the federation with her appointment to the board. She is required to attend two board meetings per year and will serve a two-year term and can be re-elected up to three times.

Due to her 13-year background in fundraising and charity work, she also plans to serve on the national fundraising committee, donating at least an extra six hours per month to special projects, she said.

She believes the Red Deer SPCA will also continue to grow with better access to the CFHS, opening up new doors for the shelter that often feels like “a small fish in a big pond.”

The Red Deer charity has already partnered with the CFHS to bring the Just for Cats: Internet Cat Video Film Festival to the city on Oct. 28 at the Memorial Centre. The show, featuring the best in cat-themed YouTube videos, sold out when it opened in Toronto.

The SPCA has made milestones over the past four years since moving out of its original, small location, and has developed a strong voice now, Hellewell said.

“The best place for that voice to be heard is through the federation. They have the ear of the government. They’re doing great initiatives with companion animals like cats and dogs but also in the agricultural sector, too, making sure the food on our plates is humanely raised and humanely slaughtered.”

She plans to add new information, especially about what’s being done with farm animals, to the SPCA’s website in the near future.

Hellewell’s board position is volunteer based and she was originally the only Albertan on the 11-person board until a fellow member moved to Edmonton recently from New Brunswick.

rfrancoeur@bprda.wpengine.com