Friday, October 24, 2014

Backes goes to bat for BENCHS

When they were students at Minnesota State, David Backes and his then-girlfriend and now-wife Kelly spent a lot of their time volunteering at BENCHS, the Blue Earth Nicollet County Humane Society.

"When you're a college student living in a rental apartment, most of those don't let you have animals," Backes, the former MSU hockey star, said in a phone interview on Friday. "Even if they did, there are responsibilities and travel t hat get in the way.

"The animals were our surrogate pets. ... We'd go there and get a dose of dog-walking or socialize with cats."

Backes said he and Kelly learned a lot about rescue animals and adoption in those days, and the couple became passionate about the cause. They're now strong advocates for pet rescue, using Backes' status as a professional athlete — captain of the St. Louis Blues — to raise the platform.

Their work includes Athletes for Animals, an organization they founded about a year ago that brings together pro athletes from all sports who have a "shared passion for rescuing and protecting the welfare of homeless pets." The organization, Backes said, has awarded more than $75,000 in grants already.

Tonight's Minnesota State's game against Alabama Huntsville is Pucks for Paws night, which will raise money for BENCHS and Athletes for Animals. The first 2,000 fans through the doors will receive a Backes poster (200 of them are autographed), and there will be a $10 raffle with the chance to win several Backes-autographed items.

"We wanted to give (BENCHS) some added credibility and exposure in the community," Backes said.

The Backeses live what they preach, too.

"Right now, the Backes home has four dogs — all rescue dogs — two cats and and three foster kittens that need to be bottle fed," Backes said. "I have to give a lot of credit to my wife."

Last February, Backes brought two homeless dogs back to the U.S. from Sochi, Russia, after he played in the Olympics there. Both have good homes, he said. One went to the parents of his Blues and Olympic teammate Kevin Shattenkirk and the other went to another Olympic teammate, the New York Rangers' Derek Stepan, cousin of current MSU player Zach Stepan.

No comments: