By the time representatives from Pepsi handed over the $25,000 cheque, Yvette Labbatte already had a new van picked out and ready to go from Wood Wheaton in Prince George. After a more successful second attempt at winning the Pepsi Refresh Challenge, Labbatte, founder of the Turtle Gardens Animal Shelter in Topley, received $25,000 to buy a new van, for transporting dogs to the lower mainland and Vancouver Island for fostering and adoption.
“We’re truly ecstatic,” she said, relaying memories of husband Dave crawling into a Canadian Tire parking lot in the shelter’s current van, picking up parts and carrying out repairs on the spot. The new van has already made its first trip south full of dogs, within days of its delivery to Turtle Gardens.
“This van here was on its last legs, so it couldn’t have come at a better time,” she said.
The new van is a 2010 Chevrolet Express extended cargo van, with both winter and all-season tires, a block heater and a trailer tow package. It replaces a cargo van with over 300,000 km of regular trips to the Lower Mainland and Vancouver island.
Turtle Gardens took in over 200 dogs from around the north last year, many of which would have been put down otherwise. Most of the dogs were transported south by Dave and a friend, driving overnight to meet adopting and foster families.
“We offer the solution to the shootings and the culls,” said Yvette.
Labbatte was thrilled that her little shelter way up north managed to gather enough votes in the contest to beat out organizations from more populous areas of Canada.
“A little guy got the grant through the Pepsi Challenge,” she said. “How cool is that?”
Labbatte said she hopes Northern Lights Animal Shelter, another local animal-focused organization, will do well in the current round of the Challenge.