This Calgary Charity Helps Keep Kids and Pets Together

With Lily’s Legacy, the Parachutes for Pets charity organization helps children in foster care hold onto their furry friends.

Melissa David, founder of Parachutes for Pets and Lily’s Legacy. Photograph by Jared Sych.

No pet owner should ever be forced to surrender their pets to feed themselves. Unfortunately, with the hardship of the pandemic causing financial burden, that’s a situation many are facing.

“It’s becoming a luxury to own a pet,” says Melissa David, founder of Parachutes for Pets, a charity that provides support in the form of food hampers and pet supplies, as well as help with veterinary expenses and grooming costs for low-income families.

Initially, the charity provided around 30 to 35 hampers a month, but, with the onset of the pandemic, the need greatly increased. “March 2020 was life-changing for Parachutes for Pets,” says David. “Suddenly, we had over 600 requests from pet owners in need.”

When some of those requests started coming in from children entering foster care, in December 2020, David created Lily’s Legacy, a program to specifically support children entering foster care with pets.

One little girl, David says, wrote that, while she had a warm winter jacket, her dog had nothing, so she wanted a jacket to keep him warm. “Those letters were just heartbreaking,” says David.

She reached out for community donations and received a wave of support. Several social workers also reached out to David to raise awareness about the challenges faced by children who are entering foster care. Often, David learned, a child is forced to leave their pet behind when the new guardian can’t afford to support the pet, as well.

Among the program’s supporters is Calgary Flames player Mikael Backlund. David named the program Lily’s Legacy in honour of Backlund’s dog, who passed away last year and had been much loved by Backlund’s daughter.

“It’s my favourite [program] by far,” says David, “because the kids just light up when they find out that they’re going to be able to take their pet with them.”

To find out more about Lily’s legacy or Parachutes for Pets, visit parachutesforpets.com

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This article appears in the February 2022 issue of Avenue Calgary.

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