Announcing the 2016 winner of Gail’s Spirit Award

On June 14, Spirit’s Mission was honoured  and pleased to present the first annual Gail’s Spirit Award at a ceremony at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo, BC.

This award is offered in memory of Spirit’s Mission founder Gail Moerkerken, who lived on Gabriola Island and was a passionate and dedicated advocate of animal rescue and welfare. The award is given to a student who has demonstrated a commitment to community service through participation and/or leadership in a variety of school and/or community activities, in particular those dedicated to helping animals, totalling over 100 hours during their Grade 11 and 12 years. The first option for this award is for a student from Gabriola Island, however, if no Gabriola student meets the criteria, students from the Nanaimo School District are also eligible.

Thanks to a generous donation from Spirit’s Mission Board Member, Angela Wilson, we are able to offer the award, valued at $500, in both 2016 and 2017. To help us continue to present future awards to deserving students, you can contribute to the award fund by making a donation to Spirit’s Mission and mentioning “Gail’s Spirit Award”.

Spirit’s Mission Vice-President, Kerri-Lynne Wilson, was on hand at the ceremony to present the award to Emily Holmes, a Grade 12 student at Dover Bay Secondary School in Nanaimo. We asked Emily to answer a few questions for us so we could introduce her to the Spirit’s Mission family – we think you’ll be just as impressed with her work as we were!

2016 Emily Holmes Spirit Award Winner with text

Where do you live and go to school?

I live in Nanaimo, but I spend my summers in Telegraph Cove, BC (Northern Vancouver Island) working in the Whale Interpretive Centre, educating the public on marine mammals and marine conservation. I go to school at Dover Bay Secondary School in Nanaimo.

Can you tell us about your volunteer work?

I have volunteered at both a veterinary hospital and the Nanaimo BC SPCA. I also volunteer at Just for Kicks, a program that provides soccer for children and teens with mental disabilities. In my school, I am involved in Homework Club, an after-school program that gives free tutoring for students of all grades in all subjects. My specialities in tutoring were in English and math.

How do you feel your volunteer work has benefitted your community?

My volunteer work makes me very happy, especially Just For Kicks. Seeing kids improve in both confidence and in skill is very rewarding. The players all struggle with different challenges, from verbal communication to physical coordination, and sport in a social setting helps with all sorts of difficulties these players go through.

Volunteering at the vet hospital and the BC SPCA are therapeutic for me. I lvoe spending time around animals and also to know that I can help make an animal who is ill, injured, or waiting for a home feel even the slightest bit better or more comfortable makes it extra special.

What are your plans after graduation?

I have been accepted to the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) for sciences. I will study biology in preparation for Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

And what about your future career plans?

I want to be a veterinarian, specializing in small mammals. Volunteering in a vet clinic made me really sure that this was something I wanted to do for my career. Having the training to help and heal animals is a very important goal for me, and I’m excited to be able to make a difference for the creatures I love!

Do you have any special pets at home you’d like to tell us about?

At home, I have three cats (Ringo, George, and Paul – yes, named after the Beatles. John died when I was little). George and Paul are absolute best friends. I helped take care of Paul when he was very little at the vet hospital, through the BC SPCA. When he was old enough to be adopted I knew I had to take him home. It was a neat experience to know that I played a small role in getting him ready for adoption! A hobby of mine is animal training, both my own cats and animals of friends and family. Both Paul and Ringo are intelligent and are now very well trained. George is lovely and gentle, but a little daft!

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On behalf of everyone at Spirit’s Mission, we’d like to thank Emily for her community service and her commitment to animals in need. Congratulations, Emily, and all the best with your future plans!

Want to help future students? Please consider donating the Gail’s Spirit Award. Just mention “Gail’s Spirit Award” when making your donation.

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