We’ve been back from Europe now for over 2 months. We’ve been keeping busy, as always, but the last few months have seen some new activities and events added to our lives.
I had a weird little lightbulb moment near the beginning of March, when I realized I might be able to combine 2 very important aspects of my life to create something good.
That’s how my weightloss challenge was born.
I pitched the idea to a few friends who quickly jumped on board. I expected maybe 20 people to get involved
In the end, we had 136 contestants in about 15 different cities
The idea was simple. Contestants paid 100rmb ($20 Canadian) to enter the challenge. I would spend two months leading a positive and encouraging group. We’d donate any money raised to a couple of animal shelters.
Of course, all of this ended up being a whole lot of work for me. Every day, I get between 25 and 50 challenges to enter into my giant Excel sheet. On Tuesdays, contestants weigh in, so we can stay accountable to our goals, and then on Wednesdays, I draw names for mini prizes based on whatever goals I set for the week.
We also held a “Dogathon” to raise money forvthe shelters. There were 2 main cities involved in the Charity Challenge, so contestants in each city planned a giant walk for dogs and their owners. Similar to the Charity challenge itself, participants paid a small fee to join in, and all proceeds went to the animals.
With the success of the challenge and the dogathon, I decided to take things one step further, and to begin organizing volunteer trips to the SAPA shelter, which is home to more than 1000 dogs and cats.
The trip was incredible. The SAPA is a noisy, smelly and magical place. The animals there are quite well cared for and mostly very friendly. You get the feeling while you’re there, that you are the best thing that has happened to those dogs all week. And that’s a nice feeling.
We had a very talented photographer join us on that first trip, and he did such an incredible job of capturing the beauty and sadness of that shelter.
Everyone there left a part of their hearts behind. There were 2 animals that really stood out to me. One was a small male dog with a scar around his snout. He likely had his mouth wired shut by an abuser. He is the sweetest little dog but SO afraid of people. It took me 20 minutes of sitting there with him before he finally had the bravery to come over to me. He melted into my lap as soon as I touched him. It was like he had been waiting forever for a bit of affection.
I dubbed my little black sweetheart “Wiggle Bum” because of the way he wiggled back and forth for 20 minutes trying to decide whether or not to come see me. You can see him in the video below. It’s not the best video, but it gives you an idea of what the shelter is like. He was also much less scared when I was there the second time. I wonder if he remembered me and remembered that I was kind to him.
The other animal that I really fell for was a beautiful, blind ginger cat. He was SO affectionate and so darn sweet. My friend Kim spent most of her time at SAPA cuddled up with him. I made sure to get lots of pictures of him and later that night, I made a flyer to try and find him an adopter, or at least to raise funds to get him healthy.
No one was able to foster him, but a lot of people donated, so Dave and I had him moved from the shelter to our vet, where he was quarantined for a week and treated for mites, fleas, ear fungus, a sinus infection and a few other little problems.
Now, he’s staying with us and learning how to be a good house cat. He’s sweet as ever and becoming so incredibly confident!
Since my first trip to the shelter, I’ve organized a group that people can join if they want to volunteer but don’t really know what to do or where to go. I organize buses to and from the SAPA and bring up to 25 people at a time. I’m going tomorrow again and I can’t wait!!
Next week, the Charity challenge ends. In total, we’ve raised more than 40,000rmb ($8000 Canadian) and lost more than 225kgs (about 500 pounds) in weight!!! I’d call that a success!!!!
The challenge is nearly over, but the mission will continue!!!
If you’re reading this and wondering how you can help, drop me a line in the comments section!
Evgeny Bakhchev, our talented photographer, also put together a beautiful video about our visit, with the help of his lovely wife, Daria. Enjoy!!