Superheroes – Daniel Bélanger and Josée Pelletier

Superheroes aren’t the exclusive domain of comic books and blockbuster movies. They walk among us. For proof, witness husband-and-wife dynamos Daniel Bélanger and Josée Pelletier.

DanielBelanger-JoseePelletier

Already long-time cat lovers and owners (“I can’t express to you the love my wife has for cats,” Bélanger chuckles) the pair by chance saw a documentary in 2010 called Cat City, chronicling the plight of homeless cats – an estimated 100,000 in Toronto alone – while detailing the tireless efforts of volunteers working to assist and rescue them.

Made by award-winning Toronto-based filmmakers Maya Gallus and Justine Pimlott under their Red Queen Productions aegis, the heart-wrenching doc at first flattened, and then galvanized Bélanger and Pelletier. In 2012, with a $25,000 investment of their own money, they created the Josée Pelletier Foundation (JPF) to offer financial support to those battling the city’s cat overpopulation crisis.

Established as a donor-advised endowment fund administered through national charitable foundation BenefAction, JPF annually grants a minimum of 3.5 percent of its value to organizations working the frontlines. In 2013, Annex Cat Rescue received $1,000; this year, Bélanger anticipates that figure might be closer to $2,000.

The hope now is to grow the fund to allow the JPF to exist in perpetuity – or until the last cat is spayed/neutered and placed with a loving forever home. “BenefAction takes care of the money, liaises with Canada Revenue Agency and there is no way we can get it back… not that we’d want to,” Bélanger explains. “We tell them how to disperse the money, and they manage it.

“Prior to 2010 I was involved with the Toronto Humane Society walking dogs. I met a lady involved with Annex Cat Rescue who filled me in about cats. Added to what we discovered through the Cat City documentary, we learned cats are in way worse shape than dogs.

“So many are euthanized unnecessarily,” he continues. “So we felt we had to do something. We don’t have any kids, so the Josée Pelletier Foundation will grow as we die off,” Bélanger laughs. “Hopefully now we can get more people to give to the Foundation so that 3.5 percent donation will grow every year.

“There are something like 85,000 registered charities in Canada and most of that money goes to non-animal causes. We hope to help fill the gap. We firmly believe the problem we have with animal overpopulation will be solved by grassroots measures. If we can raise that fund, we can solve this problem.”

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