A group of Maple Ridge students with a passion for animals are raising money to help conservation efforts around the world by painting pet portraits and selling animal-themed Christmas cards.
Lily Wang, a Grade 11 student at Westview Secondary, and four of her school friends, Sam Li, Xoë Koshlay, Ashmeet Panag, and Alex Dunbrack, form the Animal Aid and Welfare Club.
They have been working on painting pet and human portraits since the start of the school year in September.
They work off photographs and are raising money for International Animal Rescue, an animal protection and conservation non-profit based out of the United Kingdom.
Wang and the rest of the club chose the organization because they were impressed with the work they do around the world.
“They not only rescue animals, they also provide sanctuary for ones that can’t be released or rehabilitated,” said Wang.
Animals that are still able to live in the wild are released by the agency, she said, and they educate people and hold educational youth camps in places like Indonesia.
“They also work to preserve their precious habitat that is disappearing very quickly,” she added.
Before the school year ended suddenly earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group had already raised around $700 for the organization – about half of their goal.
Since the school year started again they have raised another $500.
Portraits are done in a variety of mediums and sizes.
Options include watercolour on paper, acrylic on canvas, graphite on paper, alcohol marker on paper, and specialty items like acrylic on wood, mixed media, and custom stickers. Sizes vary along with price – from $55 to $90 and more for custom works.
Wang is one of the founding members of the Animal Aid and Welfare Club.
She started the club in 2017 with two of her friends when they were in Grades 6 and 7 at Fairview Elementary.
They wanted to help animals locally.
“We were inspired to do something even though we couldn’t adopt dogs ourselves,” said Wang.
The first year they raised money for the SPCA by making dog collars with braided parachute cords called “paracord dog collars.” They even made matching bracelets for the owners.
That year they raised $200, but they had to take out $100 to cover the cost of the materials for making the product.
“At the time we weren’t very good about setting the cost,” explained Wang.
In 2018 they continued to sell dog collars at both Fairview Elementary and Westview Secondary, where the club members were now attending school. However, instead of making dog collars out of parachute cords, they made them out of fabric on sewing machines at home. That year they raised more than $330 for Katie’s Place, a shelter for cats in Maple Ridge.
Last year, as an added incentive for people to order a fabric dog collar, they also offered to paint a postcard sized painting of the person’s pet. They raised $924.35 for the Maple Ridge branch of the BC SPCA.
This year, their focus is portraiture.
And although the students have also produced a series of Christmas cards that they will be selling at local businesses, stores are just being confirmed this week.
The cards will also be sold directly to customers with pick up at the school.
One card has a watercolour of a llama on it in a Christmas hat that says, “Fa La La La La La La Llama,” said Wang, even though she was not completely sure how many “la’s” were in the word.
Another says “Dashing through the – No,” with a picture of a grumpy cat. The back of the card says “bah humbug.”
The cards are being sold in sets of five, including envelopes for $10. There are 10 different designs.
Currently the group is fully booked for custom paintings for Christmas but they are taking commissions starting in January 2021.
For a limited time they are offering complimentary stickers for orders worth more than $100.
So far they have raised more than $1,000 on their custom artwork alone, of which 70 per cent will be donated to the charity and the remaining 30 per cent to cover materials and time.