Owner and founder of Fallin Pines Critter Rescue, Shirley Cannan often represents the last hope for wild and exotic animals that have been turned away from traditional shelters. And with the recent cancellation of UCF's Cornerstone class, she and other organizations are left to compensate for their funding.

The College of Business Administration canceled the class in June after 22 years, putting an end to more than a decade of donations to Fallin Pines.

"People come out here and their jaws drop. But I'm telling you this, none of this place — the building, the enclosures, the new roofs, the whole four acres, the fencing, which is 8 feet high because we have kangaroos that run the property — none of it would be possible without UCF," Cannan said. "That fencing alone was $29,981, and UCF fundraised and paid every penny of it. I couldn't have paid for that. I would have had to fundraise forever."

Since the 2004 fall semester, Cannan said UCF students have been contributing roughly $30,000 a year to Fallin Pines.

Through funding made possible by the Cornerstone class, UCF students have helped build the shelter from the ground up, applying their business skills and collaborating to raise funds that supported new fencing, enclosures and veterinary needs.

"UCF helped a lot, so now that we don't have UCF, a lot of the stuff I have to try to do myself," Cannan said. "I can't afford to be running everything to the vet anymore, that's a lot of money — money that we aren't getting anymore."

Fallin Pines is among a number of local charities and organizations that had partnered with UCF to receive funding, such as New Hope for Kids, an organization based in Maitland that helps families cope with loss and life-threatening illnesses.

UCF Cornerstone teams have been helping fund the Wishes for Kids program within New Hope for Kids since 2003.

"Their willingness combined with our need for funding and student involvement opened the door to an extraordinary experience," said Rosemarie Wilder, the director of the Wish for Kids program.

For the past 12 years, Wilder has worked and collaborated with approximately 2,400 students to form a cohesive team, stage events and generate media coverage to raise funds for the program.

Wilder said students raised 40 to 50 percent of costs related to the wish of the child they had "adopted," amounting to approximately $45,000 annually.

"The teams not only raised funds, they also planned and implemented a wish celebration to honor their wish child," Wilder said. "They canvassed the Central Florida area sharing New Hope for Kids' mission and personally gave of themselves to bring joy to children who were very sick and to help them forget that for a while."

According to both Fallin Pines and New Hope for Kids, they were officially notified in April that the funding would be discontinued at the conclusion of the spring semester.

However, Roy Reid, executive director of communications at UCF's College of Business Administration, said a number of organizations were contacted a year and a half in advance when the changes were first being discussed.

The official letter, sent out in April, encouraged the organizations to provide feedback as to how the College of Business Administration could continue to support the local community, Reid said.

The organizations that had maintained a long-term relationship with UCF must now find a way to compensate for funds and volunteers.

"Developing a new fundraising event that would compensate for $50,000 annually is a steep challenge," Wilder said. "Beyond the funding, it is nearly impossible to replace 200 students who share their enthusiasm, compassion and dedication for helping our children. Their influence was felt by children who were amazed that college students would want to give them a party and spend time with them.

"They cannot be replaced and no amount of money can compensate for UCF's excellent students. I am so proud and privileged to have worked with some of the finest young adults of this generation."

Yet, some students, such as Brianna Reynolds, a junior business management major, plan on continuing to give back to the organizations they impacted during their experience with Cornerstone.

Reynolds, who fundraised money for Cannan's shelter during her time in the class, said she plans on volunteering again this semester after learning about the positive impact of the organization.

"One of the biggest things I took away from the experience was seeing how grateful Shirley was," she said. "When we took a tour of the place, we were able to see all of the structures that were built from previous Cornerstone classes.

"It really helped to see the impact that I was able to make."

Although Reynolds plans on continuing her community service, she said she wishes the organization would stay because it benefited everyone involved.

"I think it was really good for business students to remember that everything they do has an impact, and [it's] a really good way for UCF to impact their surrounding community," she said.

Although the Cornerstone program has ended, the impact it had on local non-profits will continue to leave a lasting legacy.

"I feel like I put the money where it had to go, where I wanted it to go, to make the animals comfortable and happy," Cannan said. "I bless UCF every fricken day, every day, because without them, this place wouldn't be what it is. And yes, it came to an end, but we had an 11-year, fantastic run."


Daniela Marin is the Entertainment Editor for the Central Florida Future.

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