Animals are hungry, in pain

Animal Rescue Inverness

Young at Heart Pet Rescue's future adoption center just for senior pets in Woodstock will soon be named "Smokey's Haven" thanks to a $500, 000 donation by the Canning family in memory of their beloved senior dog.

By all accounts, the Labrador led a charmed life. Loved by his entire family since just a pup, he spent 12 years enjoying adventures with the Canning family. From trips to Wisconsin, holidays with their six kids and eventual 10 grandchildren, and summer afternoons catching Frisbees off the diving board at the pool, Smokey was one of the family.

As Smokey began to slow down in his senior years, John and Rita Canning became more aware of the plight of older pets and the challenges that can arise when caring for them.

When they learned about Palatine-based Young at Heart Pet Rescue's mission to rescue, care for, and find loving homes for senior pets in need, the focus of the organization really hit home.

"Young at Heart's mission struck us at a unique time in our lives, " said John Canning. "Smokey had recently passed away, and when we learned the organization focused on animals that are 7 years of age or older, their mission really resonated with us."

"The similarity of what Young at Heart wants to do and what we had talked about as a family really blew me away, " said Rita. "We absolutely love the idea and are so happy to be a part of it. It was meant to be."

The love of animals is a family affair.

Melissa Canning, daughter-in-law to John and Rita, is involved with other animal welfare groups. The regional sales manager for Handgards, wife and mother to a son also has three cats, one dog and many fish.

"I have always had such a passion for animals, ever since my parents adopted a shelter cat when I was 1 year old, " said Melissa, who has joined the organization's board. "I love the name Young at Heart. It speaks volumes. These animals are young at heart and need our help supporting them into their golden years."

The Inverness family is known for its use of philanthropy to have a transformative impact. Among the many causes they support, each has one that they are most passionate about.

Rita Canning is chairman of WINGS, which offers transitional housing and support services for abused and homeless women and their children. Through their own personal giving and solicitation of others, the Cannings have raised more than $10 million to support WINGS.

John Canning's passion is the Big Shoulders Fund, a nonprofit that has helped Chicago's children in need achieve their dreams through access to a quality, values-based education. Each year, he provides more than 100 inner city students with scholarships. And as co-chairman of the group, he has helped raise more than $100 million for Chicago's inner-city parochial schools, which serve 24, 000 students, 80 percent minority and 62 percent from families that are living at or below the poverty level.

The Cannings are impressed with Young at Heart. "There is strong leadership and a very passionate group of people running a good operation. It is very obvious that they love senior pets, " Rita Canning said.

Dawn Kemper, executive director and founder of Young at Heart, said the Cannings' gift will have an extraordinary impact on the lives of homeless senior pets.

"It has inspired us all. We are so excited to build an even brighter future for senior pets, and to be so close to opening the doors to our very special adoption center."

The center is set to open in mid-2017 on eight acres. It will house approximately 50 senior dogs and cats in a cageless environment with screened-in porches for the cats, large outdoor play yards for the dogs, and heated floors for the animals in a homelike setting.

Young at Heart is in the final stretch of the capital campaign to build the shelter, with $100, 000 left to raise.

The not-for-profit organization, which has placed hundreds of senior pets into loving homes each year since its founding in 2005, also provides a peaceful sanctuary life for those that are less adoptable. It operates an adoption center with a half-dozen cats in the Lake Zurich Petco in space provided by the Petco Foundation and a smaller donated cat adoption area in Best Friends Total Pet Care in Prairie View.

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