RED CARPET LAUNCH
Athletes for Animals launched at a red carpet event at Mandarin Lounge in Central West End on Sunday, Nov. 10. VIEW PHOTOS >>>
ST. LOUIS - On the ice, Blues captain David Backes
is a tough, physical and tenacious competitor.
Off the ice, at least when it comes to animals, he's a bit of a softie.
Since arriving in St. Louis, Backes has worked with Five Acres Animal Shelter to find homes and raise awareness for rescued animals. Since getting his pilot’s license in 2011, he has flown to Kentucky, Iowa, Arkansas and Texas to prevent animals in overcrowded shelters from being put down by flying them to shelters that can accommodate them.
At home, he has three dogs and two cats, all of which are rescued, and there's a chance he'll be adding another in the near future.
But now, he’s taking all that to another level.
On Sunday night, Backes and his wife, Kelly, launched Athletes for Animals, a new foundation that unites athletes nationwide in an attempt to make a positive impact on the lives of animals.
“This has been a dream of Kelly and I’s for years upon years, to have our own organization that helps animals,” David said. “Twelve months ago, we said we had time during the lockout, let’s dive in and see what it takes. It’s been an undertaking, but we’re thrilled to be up and running and launching this tonight."
Athletes already serving as ambassadors for the foundation are Barret Jackman, Jake Long (St. Louis Rams), James Laurinaitis (St. Louis Rams), David Perron (Edmonton Oilers), Erik Johnson (Colorado Avalanche), Mark Buehrle (Toronto Blue Jays), Trevor Cahill (Arizona Diamondbacks) and former Cardinals’ pitcher Kyle McClellan.
The hope is the organization will expand and include more athletes across the country. Athlete ambassadors will volunteer at local shelters, attend fundraisers that support them, educate the public about adoption and responsible pet ownership and make charitable donations to decrease the homeless pet population.
Laurinaitis, who attended Sunday’s launch event, said helping David and Kelly with the foundation was an easy decision.
“I got to know David pretty well, and having four dogs myself, to hear his heart for it and what he wants to accomplish with this organization, it was kind of a no-brainer,” Laurinaitis said. “(Our dogs) don’t know whether I’ve had a good day or bad day. They just make me happy. Whether you're gone for five minutes or gone for hours or days, they’re so excited to see you. It just changes your whole mood around.”
Main objectives for Athletes for Animals include educating people about responsible pet ownership, promoting pet adoption and raising money to help outstanding rescue organizations.
While it's a big undertaking, the Backes' say they are ready for the challenge.
“We’ve got awesome athletes that have been involved, and awesome people supporting us," David said. "We think we’re on our way to a great impact on animal welfare.”
To learn more about Athletes for Animals, visit their website at AthletesForAnimals.org.