Youth rides to aid of Survivors Rescue

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Dawn Dempsey, the Survivors Rescue mascot Sir ViVor and Matthew Hobbs pose for a photo as Matthew submits his donation to the organization. (Photo courtesy SURVIVORS RESCUE)

SANDPOINT — Birthdays usually mean getting presents — not giving them.

That’s not the case, however, in 12-year-old Matthew Hobbs’ world. The local youth aptly proved that point after his Jan. 18 celebration by donating his birthday money to recently-founded nonprofit Survivors Rescue, a shelter dedicated to saving and caring for horses doomed to the kill pen. A secret donor anonymously matched his contribution of $61.59, allowing Matthew to present organization founder Dawn Dempsey with a check for $123.18. In return, the organization granted him the title of “special saving agent.”

“I decided to donate because (Dawn) is rescuing horses, and I think that’s really kind of her,” Matthew said. “It’s the least I could do.”

Matthew is no stranger to Survivor’s Rescue. He is a frequent volunteer at the shelter along with his older brother, Andrew, and his older sister, Melissa. The trio make frequent appearances at the shelter, located just off Highway 200 on donated space from Ponderay Farms, to feed, clean and spend time with the rescued horses.

“They’re really dedicated and hard-working kids with huge hearts,” Dempsey said.

The Hobbs’ contributions couldn’t come at a better time for Survivors Rescue. The organization was officially founded in November in response to an epidemic of horse slaughtering. According to Dempsey, it’s likely a by-product of the economic crisis. Horses are expensive animals to feed and maintain, and when an owner can no longer afford to keep them, they often end up bound for the slaughterhouse. Dempsey said she’s received the ownership papers in her mailbox from individuals desperate to keep their animals out of the kill pen. The lack of options for such individuals prompted Dempsey, a former horse breeder, to do something about it.

“This is horse country, but there’s no organization for horses here,” she said.

The first horse Survivors Rescue saved from the kill pen was a beautiful, black Arabian trained for riding — a valuable and prized animal under normal circumstances. Dempsey named the horse Sir ViVor, and it has since become her primary riding partner and the mascot of the rescue.

There are many ways community members can follow in Matthew’s footsteps and assist the cause. The most obvious, of course, is to donate money. Survivors Rescue requires a significant amount of money to keep horses properly fed and housed, and when there’s no money in reserve, Dempsey has to reach into her own pocket. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit staffed entirely by volunteers, 100 percent of donations go toward caring for the horses.

The shelter also needs volunteers — some to serve on a governing board and some to simply help with the labor. Finally, residents can foster or adopt horses from the shelter.

One thing is for sure — if Survivors Rescue can attract supporters as generous and dedicated as Matthew, local horses have nothing to worry about.

To learn more about Survivor’s Rescue or assist in the effort, visit or call 290-6702.

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