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Okanagan Humane Society celebrates volunteers

National Volunteer Week runs from April 15-19
Jamie volunteers with OHS. (OHS)

~Contributed: OHS

April 14 - 20 is the 2024 Volunteer Week in Canada and the Okanagan Humane Society wants to shine a light on some of the many volunteers who make our organization work.

OHS currently has 200+ active volunteers, nearly ¾ of whom focus on rescues, fostering and arranging the adoptions of the animals who come into our care. Each year these selfless, caring individuals have helped more than 2500 animals in need.

Volunteers like Jamie Walsh. She has been with OHS since 2018 and is currently a foster coordinator and a member of the Board of Directors. She helps organize the adoption and community events which help the animals find their forever homes.

“I want to make sure every animal finds not just a home, but a forever haven filled with love and understanding,” says Walsh.

Sarah Carson has been an OHS foster mom for the last three years. After adopting Oliver, a very floofy white and orange mix breed, she realized she wanted to have more cats. And since she had an empty room, she decided fostering was the way to go.

“It was an opportunity to bring more love into the house,” says Carson.

She has fostered over 80 cats, finding loving homes for all of them. Of her current five forever cats, four were foster fails.

“We intentionally foster-failed with Oliver, and after that we encountered a pair of siblings with medical issues, we had them for five months and I realized they were just never leaving.”

Darlene Hillson from Osoyoos became involved with OHS in early 2018 after she was approached by three scrawny kittens while sitting at a picnic table with her husband.

“The kittens began rubbing against my legs and I could tell they needed help, especially this one black and white one, she had a bulge around her eye,” says Hillson.

She soon discovered that the kittens were part of a large cat colony - some 50+ kitties - which led Hillson to contact the OHS. It took several months of hard work, but Hillson and the OHS were able to capture all the cats and get them the help they needed. The black and white kitten ended up losing her eye but found her forever home - with Hillson.

“We call her Belle, we figured she was a survivor, she had made it that long in this colony. We just fell in love with her. Her personality just drew us in.”

Hillson says there is a desperate need for foster families in the Osoyoos and Penticton areas, owing largely due to the numerous cat colonies still in the areas.

“We do catch/spay/neuter/release as many as we can, but we can’t do that during the cold months. After a cat is spayed/neutered they have to be in a warm, safe space for at least a few days in order to recover properly. Especially the females as they have their bellies shaved during the spay. You can’t put them back out in the cold right after that,” says Hillson.

Ron Ready is one of a few men who volunteer with OHS, a fact that amuses him daily.

“I’m surrounded by this great group of ladies, everyone gets along so well and it’s just a lovely atmosphere,” says Ready, who got involved with OHS after retirement.

A volunteer since 2021, 73-year-old Ready is often one of the first people many of the animals will encounter during their journey with OHS as he is dedicated to helping capture community animals that desperately need the support of OHS. He also lends time as transporter, delivering supplies and driving animals to vet appointments and to/from foster homes.

“It’s very satisfying to be the one who drives the animals to their foster homes, knowing I’ve helped that animal get where they need to be.”

Romany Runnalls has been the volunteer president of OHS since 2018 and says without volunteers, OHS would not exist.

Runnalls has been working as a volunteer for 9+ years with OHS starting with the Okanagan Cat Coalition, moving to the Board of Directors and eventually becoming the President.

Runnalls does it all! Answering calls day and night to support animals in the community, she does all that she can do to ensure all animals and people receive the care and compassion they deserve. An average week of volunteer hours from Runnalls will be well above 30 hours!

“We are volunteer-powered. We have some contractors - a few people doing a few key tasks such as bookkeeping and administrative things who are paid, but the vast majority of our people are volunteers. We literally couldn’t do anything without our volunteers,” says Runnalls.

“I’d love to thank all our wonderful volunteers for signing on and pushing through. It isn’t always easy, as the work is highly emotional and urgent at times. It can strain and drain people, and can be hard to work separately, and together. But the rewards are truly heartwarming, especially having so many people put their own resources into helping thousands of animals per year. Time, talents and treasures, that is what volunteers give.”

Runnalls says that while OHS always needs more volunteers everywhere, there is a particular need for foster families in the smaller communities in both the North and South Okanagan areas.

If you would like to help OHS by becoming a volunteer, you can check out our list of current volunteer opportunities on our website at