A couple of weeks ago SPCA called for donations from the public for $2000, money that was needed to operate a large tumor on a dog.

That’s a large sum of money, I thought, and a few days later I saw that people went above the needed amount and $5000 were raised instead. The rapidity to raise the money was truly impressive.

Out of the $5000, approximately $2000 was used for the tumor. Out of what was left, $1000 was used to pay for the amputation of a cat’s leg and the rest for some much needed items at the SPCA.

I love animals, I always have. I had a dog, she was beautiful and amazing in her patience when she listened to all the whines and sighs of teenager me; she was sweet in her playfulness when we ran through high rained-on grass with complete disregard for muckiness or green stains.

She had a tumor that was removed but then a year later it came back with a vengeance. She died with her head on my dad’s lap, on the old bench under the grapevine. I was away at university and when I came home that time, I went and sat by the walnut tree in the garden. My dog was buried there.

I understand the need to help save an animal’s life. We have to. Yet in doing so, I always wondered why professionals would not donate their time and expertise for such things.

I am not preaching from a high pulpit either. I volunteered for four years for the Autism Society of BC, I kept doing it even after the program was retired due to lack of funds and I did it during a two-month long transit strike and with no car. A good long walk and the hope of a smile waiting on the other side. I know about going the extra mile.

As I read about the funds raised for these fortunate animals, I could not help but think of some of the kids from my sons’ school. They go to school hungry quite often, other times they go to bed hungry. Hunger is often forgotten because they have more complicated issues to deal with. Some are barely five.

There are single parents in my sons’ school and beyond, who can barely get by. Often times, I was told, the inability to provide financially and thus show that their kids are cared for, causes the children to be removed and placed in foster care where a steady monthly fare makes for better care. The willing but financially burdened parent has no fault.

Sure we have the food bank, we have other charities striving to provide. But needs persist. So with all due respect to pet owners and all people dedicated to improve the life of animals, I have to point to what seems like a shift in priorities.

Children should always come first. All needy humans should too, but for the sake of a little girl with blue eyes that sometimes comes to school hungry but with a wickedly sweet smile still attached to the corner of her mouth – for now, I will say children should come first.

What if the animals would be cared for free-of-charge by willing professionals and the money that would otherwise be used to pay for surgery and treatment would be put towards buying food for hungry children. Or clothes, or toothbrushes, or shoes that fit.

Children do not ask to be born. But we bring them into the world and some meet adversities from very early on. They see domestic abuse, they take care of those even younger than them and they go hungry one too many times.

Many are forgotten or left behind, and by no one’s fault in particular but rather a collective one, and for some little ones simple things like hot chocolate become a luxury they only dream about… Yet still, when asked about wishes, their wish for the presence of their parents tops the list.

We cannot fail these children and allow others to come into suffering. We have to provide all that we can for them, as often as we can and as much as we can. From food, to financial help for the parents who struggle, to making sure enough professionals are available to help children and their caregivers with emotional issues, no matter how big, we cannot fail them.

Given enough successful fundraising and willingness to help, and I know there is a lot, there should be enough to help children, their needy families and suffering pets too. But priorities should never shift. Human life is sacred, period. So is a child’s smile and lightheartedness.

So here’s my thought: Let’s put some money aside for the hungry children that walk around this city at this very moment. Say $5000 or so. A bold thought, I know, but bold is what makes it happen.

Because time passes and there is only that much time for children who don’t have it easy to learn about kindness and know that someone cares. Just in case they stumble later on. They might not though. Not if we do something now. From food, to toothbrushes and shoes, to cuddles and a willing heart, they can have it all and feel welcomed in this world. Let’s not fail them.

(Originally published as a column in the Saturday edition of the Kamloops Daily News, on June 8 2013)