Youth in Action: Punk for Paws

According to Imagine Canada, 13 million Canadians volunteer talent and time to support non-profits and charities and help those in need. Collectively, Canadians give more than $14 billion annually to registered charities. Top youth experiences that motivate future giving include seeing parents volunteer, seeing someone they admire helping others and volunteering.

In 2018 second year University of Guelph (U of G) student Nicole Iarusci had a big idea: to combine her passion for music and animals together to celebrate the positive effects both have in peoples’ lives.

And so, what was once a brainstormed idea in one of Iarusci’s notebooks became Punk for Paws, a live concert fundraiser, featuring local bands from Southern Ontario, with all proceeds supporting OVC Pet Trust. In May 2018 Iarusci held her first event at rock concert hall Lee’s Palace in The Annex neighbourhood in Toronto. Iarusci says it means a lot to her that she can use her passion for music to give back and to help animals.

While Punk for Paws stemmed from her own idea, Iarusci recognizes it takes a team to execute the vision into reality. She credits her support system of friends and family who have encouraged her, as well as the musical artists who play for her fundraiser event.

“Punk for Paws is our combined achievement.”

Iarusci feels strongly that music has the power to bring people together.

“Music fans commonly connect through the therapeutic, cathartic and comforting environment of live music. It [music] allows people to experience a form of escapism and helps motivate them to live in the moment,” Iarusci reflects. “These same positive effects can similarly be experienced through owning a pet: a pet offers unconditional love and is a source of comfort and companionship. Animals live in the moment and remind their owners to do the same,” she adds.

Iarusci was motivated to give back to OVC Pet Trust because the cause is close to her heart as a pet owner and as an aspiring veterinarian. She appreciates that veterinary care is key for our pets to be able to live long and healthy lives with the people who love them.

“OVC Pet Trust supports incredible, ground-breaking research to make advancements in the field of veterinary medicine, which in turn continuously improves the quality of care our pets can receive from their veterinarian. They also support the human-animal bond – something many of us are lucky to experience.”

Iarusci can’t remember a time in her life when her family did not share their home with a pet. She says being surrounded by pets throughout her childhood contributed to a lifelong love for them. This year’s Punk for Paws will be particularly meaningful for Iarusci, who recently lost one of her own pets – Tiny Rick, a domestic shorthair cat.

“Tiny Rick was able to live a great life due to the veterinary care he received.” 

She adds that by supporting OVC Pet Trust, her efforts are supporting the lives of other pets that make people just as happy as Tiny Rick made her and her family.

“Being able to support the unique bond shared between an owner and their pet is a very powerful, moving thing.”

Read more in the spring / summer issue of Best Friends Magazine