Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/28/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
For Chris Cvetkovic, long snapper for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the thing that means the world to him -- the thing that warms that very large heart within his very large 6-1, 243-pound body -- is that his four-year-old son and five-year-old daughter no longer tell people their father is a football player.
"They used to tell people their daddy was a football player. Now they tell people Daddy takes care of animals," Cvetkovic beams. "My daughter wants to be a veterinary princess when she grows up."
At 35, Cvetkovic is the oldest of the Blue Bombers players and has spent the last 10 years he has been on the team giving back to the community of Winnipeg. He is passionate about such issues as children's literacy and organizations such as CancerCare Manitoba.
But the Hamilton, Ont., native has always had a special soft spot for animals. He says he grew up with lots of pets he loved dearly. Right now, his home has an assortment of adopted cats and dogs. That is why, last February, he started his own organization, Cvet's Pets, a 100 per cent volunteer-run, not-for-profit outfit dedicated to helping Winnipeg's no-kill animal-rescue programs.
In January, an opportunity arose to take his message, his love for animals, from a local to a global level. He learned about the work of Cats and Dogs International (CANDi), an organization with the mission of saving the lives of stray cats and dogs in Mexico and the Caribbean through spay, neuter, adoption and education programs supported and funded by the tourism industry, travellers and pet lovers.
Cvetkovic decided to hand-pick an all-star team of six men representing four CFL teams -- Ian Logan, Buck Pierce and Brady Browne from the Bombers, Andre Durie from the Toronto Argonauts, Jabari Arthur from the Calgary Stampeders and Chris Getzlaf from the Saskatchewan Roughriders -- to spend a week in the economically challenged area of Bonfil, Mexico, helping CANDi spay and neuter animals from January 11-16. Flights and accommodations were paid for by Air Transat.
When they arrived, the men were taken aback and didn't know where to begin.
"Here we are, grown men who get paid to beat the hell out of each other, and it was jarring. We were speechless," says Cvetkovic.
He says that in Cancun, there are more than two million stray animals roaming the streets -- twice the number of people living there -- and the life expectancy of a dog is only two years.
"So many travellers are only exposed to their pristine resort while on vacation and are simply unaware of how dire the animal overpopulation situation in Mexico is, or they don't see the inhumane treatment of animals in the area," says Darci Galati, president of CANDi. "It's because of volunteers like Chris, as well as corporate supporters like Air Transat, that CANDi has been able to shine a spotlight on these issues and pave the way to making critical changes within the travel industry to become humane partners."
The first day, the men awoke at 7 a.m. and drove around in the back of a pickup truck picking up stray animals and bringing them to a special clinic set up by CANDi with veterinarians volunteering their time to spay and neuter. In the days following, the football players would help with anything from prepping animals for pre-surgery to providing post-surgery care. Cvetkovic said by the end of the day, physically and emotionally exhausted, the men would go back to the hotel and be in bed by 9 p.m.
By the end of the week, they helped spay and neuter more than 1,300 animals.
Back on his home turf, Cvetkovic is getting ready for an upcoming fundraiser for Cvet's Pets -- a Superbowl Sunday celebration at Danny's BBQ & Smokehouse and Buck's Sports Lounge starting at noon on Sunday, Feb. 3.
"As athletes, we have the unique opportunity to get the message out," says Buck Pierce, the Bombers' quarterback. "Chris has stepped it up to a whole other level, getting players from different teams to join together for a good cause. There is a bond that you have with animals that is unlike any other, and it's important to look at the issue both in Winnipeg but also in places where Winnipeggers vacation in the wintertime, like Mexico."
To learn more about the work of CANDi and how to get involved, visit http://www.candiinternational.org/. To learn more about Cvet's Pets, visit http://www.cvetspets.com/.
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 28, 2013 B2
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Portage La Prairie crash under investigation
Winnipeg family crowd sourcing liver donation for 11-year-old girl
Ethics commissioner dismisses counter-complaint Vic Toews made against Pat Martin
Manitoba's CFS to stop housing kids in hotels in June
Welcome to our cowardly new world order
City to use smoke bombs to control gopher population
Manitoba Hydro has spent $31 million on Conawapa station since report calling for spending to stop
Sentencing today for driver in crash that killed two students
Mayor Bowman target of online post inciting people to attack him; police examining situation
Police seek girl, 13, missing a month
Agricultural fertilizing can begin early: province
Police investigate assault on Hargrave
Mining firm, enviros in defamation court fight
Avalanche warning out for Rockies, parts of B.C.
Manitoba premier apologizes to First Nation
Warm today, but frigid Thursday
Rally against Bill C-51 to be held in Osborne Village
Obama: Canadian oil 'extraordinarily dirty'
Alberta, N.W.T. sign deal on Mackenzie River
Cars in CN train derail in southern Manitoba
Obama again whips up recipe for healthy kids
Grieving dad awaits report on deaths
Councillor to seek Conservative nod
If this were a joke, it would be funny
Compassion in the courtroom
Drawing aboriginal voters to polls
Lifting veil off attitudes about niqab, hijab
No penalty for bringing supper into Canada
Liberals set to roll out federal-election ads
Feds trample on Downs racing
We pledge to not blab to the media
Pal spins a squirrelly story
Annual Litter Index reveals Winnipeg's messiest streets
U of M workers brace for more job cuts
Tax breaks to cost public $7.7B per year: report
Winnipeg students to compete in U.S. ethics bowl
ER doctor acclaimed as federal Liberal candidate
More job cuts expected at U of M
Jeff Browaty wants to be federal Tory candidate in Kildonan-St. Paul