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National award for Nahanni Butte girls

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services

Nahanni Butte (Nov 17/06) - It's nice to be given recognition for doing something you love and three girls from Nahanni Butte are experiencing just that.

Kayla Betsaka, Kyra Tanche and Bhreagh Ingarfield have been awarded Animal Action Awards from the International Foundation for Animal Welfare. The award is given out yearly to 10 Canadians who've been nominated as local animal heroes.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Kayla Betsaka, left, Kyra Tanche and Bhreagh Ingarfield hold onto Bermuda, Drake and Spirit, three of the dogs up for adoption at the Nahanni Butte Animal Shelter. The girls have been given a national award for their work with the shelter. - Photo courtesy of Bhreagh Ingarfield

Betsaka, Tanche and Ingarfield opened the Nahanni Butte Animal Shelter in the fall of 2005 to help the stray and abused animals in the community.

The recognition came as a surprise to the girls.

They found out three weeks ago they'd been nominated and a week later they were informed they'd won. The nomination came from Terri Cumming in Whitehorse, Yukon.

"We were excited we were even nominated," said Tanche, 15.

The girls are hoping to travel to Ottawa to attend the awards ceremony on Nov 21.

This will mark the first time someone from the Northwest Territories has won the award, said Crystal Childs, the Animal Action Week co-ordinator with the foundation.

"We are very excited about them," said Childs.

"They sound like very energetic young women."

Childs said the girls should prove to be an inspiration for other youth around the country to get involved and help animals.

"They have really taken on an amazing task," Childs said, referring to the shelter.

Keeping an animal shelter running is no easy task, but the girls don't seem to mind.

On weekdays, the girls spend approximately an hour and a half at the shelter.

On weekends they spend between three and four hours.

"I just like hanging with the dogs," said Betsaka, 16.

There have been animals at the shelter almost constantly since it opened.

The girls are currently boarding two dogs and looking for homes for three others.

To help keep the dogs active the girls are training them as a dog team.

"It's hard work," said Ingarfield, 15.

Even during their trip to Ottawa, the girls will be thinking about helping animals.

Time that other youth might have devoted to shopping will be used by the girls to visit humane societies and the Ottawa-Carleton Wildlife Centre to see how they care for animals.

The three girls will also learn basic medical care for animals.

Not content to enjoy their current success, the girls have future plans for the shelter.

The shelter was originally housed in an old renewable resources building owned by the Charles Yohin school.

Plans are in the works to construct a new building next year to house the shelter and the school's ski equipment.

"That should be really nice to have a nice new building," said Tanche.

Consideration is also being given to how to keep the shelter open.

The girls would like to keep the shelter running for as long as possible but since they will all graduate this year it might be difficult, said Ingarfield.

There are plans to try and teach younger students who seem interested in the shelter, Ingarfield said.

Getting to the awards ceremony in Ottawa has proven to be almost as challenging as running the shelter.

For the past two weeks Cindy Buterbaugh, Ingarfield's mother and a teacher at the school, has been writing letters and making phone calls to raise money for the trip.

More than $10,000 was needed. A number of organizations have donated money and services including the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, the Department of Justice, Wolverine Air, First Air, Canadian Zinc and the Mackenzie Gas Project.

It now looks like the girls will be able to go. Buterbaugh said they are just hoping for good weather for the flights.

"It's been amazing," Buterbaugh said.