by MICHELLE TREMBLAY | photos by Soul of Photography

Animal Advocate

About two years ago, the Vigil family – Rebecca, David, and their two children – adopted a dog from the Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC). “Our dog has been such a great addition to our family,” shared Rebecca. “He has quite a personality, our little Hugo.”

But Rebecca’s encounter with HWAC – a nonprofit organization located in Rancho Santa Fe, committed to the philosophy of people helping animals and animal helping people – became personal years earlier when her grandmother’s senior facility received visits from HWAC’s animals through the Pet Encounter Therapy Program. “The gentleness of the animals and unconditional love they have was certainly a highlight of the day,” recalled Rebecca.

volunteer_vigil_3Since that time, the Vigils have become avid volunteers for HWAC. David is on the Board of Directors and Rebecca has twice chaired the Spring Fling Gala fundraiser. “The first year that I chaired the gala (its 25th anniversary) we were able to raise a record-setting amount in donations and the party is really fun and unique!” exclaimed Rebecca. One unique part of the gala is its coveted auction items, including a lunch date with famous actress Diane Keaton. “We won that item one year and went to Los Angeles to meet her,” shared Rebecca. “Needless to say it was an amazing memory!”
Rebecca is currently helping to prepare for next year’s gala and shares HWAC’s need for more volunteers. “It’s never too early to have new volunteers that love animals and are willing to help in areas like the auction or sponsorships,” she stated. “HWAC also needs volunteers for the foster program for pets. This allows more room at the center to be able to take in orphan pets in crisis situations.”

Rebecca explained that one of the most rewarding aspects of her volunteer work is observing HWAC’s many programs, especially its Therapeutic Riding Program, which benefits children and adults with special needs. “I have seen some of the children with cerebral palsy or autism who have been in the Therapeutic Riding program and how riding a specially trained horse can help them with balance, coordination, and confidence,” explained Rebecca. “The testimony about the positive changes from the parents is compelling.”

Another perk, she noted, is having the opportunity to work with the staff at HWAC. “They are very conscientious and very helpful in creating ways to make the gala such a success,” shared Rebecca. “Their hearts are really in their commitment to all the programs.”

Name: Rebecca Vigil
Community: Rancho Santa Fe for 18 years
Volunteer Affiliation: Helen Woodward Animal Center
Profession: Retired court reporter
Family: Husband – David; one son and one daughter
Interests: Travel, Bible study, family vacations
Favorite Local Spots: Balboa Park, Del Mar beach, Mille Fleurs, Pamplemousse Grille

Group: Helen Woodward Animal Center
Mission: Helen Woodward Animal Center’s passionate belief that animals help people and people help animals through trust, unconditional love, and respect, creates a legacy of caring. Sharing this philosophy with others, the Center inspires and teaches, locally and globally, the importance of the animal-human bond.
Contact: 858-756-4117;