Teen gift-wraps annual Santa act for cats

Ryan Knowles and his girlfriend Raina Newman are cat-lovers. -
Ryan Knowles and his girlfriend Raina Newman are cat-lovers.
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Forget Santa Claus and turkey dinner.

At Cowichan Cat Rescue, Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without Ryan Knowles.

This 19-year-old south Cowichan resident has handed an estimated $15,000 to the local feral-cat organization through donations given every December for the past six or seven years.The most recent installment — of $2,500 — was donated about two weeks ago.

“We think he’s amazing,” Cowichan Cat Rescue’s Jean Hamilton said of Knowles.

“We’re extremely fond of this boy, and it’s not just the donations. He’s a really good kid who cares about the world, and cares about animals. He’s special.”

Knowles is a Vancouver Island University student who solicits donations through The Baker Foundation, established in his grandparents’ name.

Knowles, who comes from a family of cat lovers, says he’s compelled to help Cowichan Cat Rescue because of its volunteers’ tireless dedication to their cause.

“These aren’t staff members doing a job,” he said. “They’re volunteers who do everything out of the goodness of their hearts.”

Knowles’ hefty donation caps a good year for Cowichan Cat Rescue, which controls Cowichan’s feral cat colonies through its trap/neuter/release program, plus low-cost assisted spay/neuter project.

Other sources of assistance for CCR came from Pepsi’s Refresh Everything challenge, which provided $10,000 toward the low-cost spay/neuter project for low-income families in Cowichan, and New Year’s Eve’s Cram The Van event, which saw Cowichanians pack cat food and almost $3,600 in donations into a Dodge Caravan parked in front of Duncan Pets in just four hours.

“Several of the hungriest colonies in the valley are already dining on that donated food, and there is no question that many cats have been saved from severe hunger through these donations,” a CCR press release states, adding monetary donations are used to pay ever-present vet bills.

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