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Donation from animal lover to benefit homeless pets

Submitted In this undated family photo, Ron Olson pets one of the family dogs Coco as a cat, Rafty, sits in the background. Ron died in November, and a $50,000 donation has been made from his estate to the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in Willmar.1 / 3
Submitted The late Judy and the late Ron Olson were both lifelong animal lovers and both of their estates have now made large donations to the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in Willmar. 2 / 3
Clay Conover / Tribune A structure over a fenced-in dog play area at Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in Willmar is shown earlier this month. The building was paid for by a donation from Judy Olson's estate. Now the estate of her husband Ron Olson has given another $50,000 to the shelter.3 / 3

WILLMAR — A $50,000 donation has been given to the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter in Willmar by the estate of Ron Olson, who died in November.

"Pets just played a big part in their life," said Kent Olson, Ron Olson's son. "My parents just wanted to give back."

Kent Olson presented the money earlier this month to the Humane Society of Kandiyohi and Meeker Counties which operates the shelter. The money was given under the condition that it be used only to improve the conditions of the animals. It cannot be used for wages, office supplies or any other personnel expenses.

Ron's wife, Judy Olson, died in July of 2016 and also gave $50,000 from her estate to the Humane Society.

Both, said Kent Olson, were animal lovers.

"We had pets, cats and dogs, for fun and enjoyment around the house and companionship. We just loved animals," Kent said. "When we were growing up, if we had some that came and they were runts, we'd bottle feed them and nurse them along and help them survive."

When the Olsons decided to make out their wills a few years ago, Kent said there was no question about what to do with the money.

"Their attorney asked about if they wanted to donate some money and they didn't blink an eye," he said. "They chose immediately that this is what they wanted to do with some of the funds."

In cooperation with law enforcement, the Humane Society of Kandiyohi and Meeker Counties takes in strays and pets that owners can no longer care for and adopt them out. The Hawk Creek Animal Shelter building was completed in 2009.

Some of the money that was given by Judy has already been used. The Humane Society has installed new doors on dog stalls at Hawk Creek and installed noise-reducing panels on the walls of the dog room because when all the dogs are barking the room gets loud. Also with the money, a large outdoor shelter was built to provide a shaded area for dogs to play.

With the new money, there are plans to add a window in one of the cat rooms and update the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system to provide cleaner air for the animals, said Bobbie Bauman, the operations director at Hawk Creek.

"(The money) will be used to improve the life of the pets here at the shelter," Bauman said. "We're looking at hopefully getting our HVAC system fully functioning correctly. ... It is such a huge blessing for the shelter."

Dick Reitsema, chairman of the Humane Society board, said he believes it's important that the donations are going only to improve the lives of the animals.

"I thought that was a good sound expectation of (Ron's), that it be used for the betterment of the animals, and not be 'wasted,' so to speak, but all of the monies that the family has donated will go for that," Reitsema said. "We are accountable."

Kent Olson hopes that the donation causes others to think about donating money from their will.

"(We want them to think) 'I've got extra money when I die. Why not do something like that,'" he said. "That's what our thinking is, and I know that there are other people who have contacted my dad and said because you did that, we did it too."