How one family started a holiday tradition of giving back to wildlife

Every winter season, WWF-Canada introduces new species to its collection of symbolic adoptions. By adopting a new species each year, you can start your own holiday tradition of giving back. 

Sarah, 11, Amelia, 13 and Joseph, 9 © Ally Baird
Sarah, 11, Amelia, 13 and Joseph, 9 © Ally Baird

Ally Baird, an artist and early childhood educator in St. John’s, N.L., has symbolically adopted species with WWF-Canada every Christmas since her kids were babies. Thirteen years on, there are a whole lot of well-loved stuffed animals around her house — and many more wild animals are thriving as a result of the conservation work their Christmas presents have helped fund.

“Our first animal was actually a gift,” recalls Ally. “I was at a WWF-Canada event downtown with [my daughter] Amelia when she was an infant and one of the organizers gave her a tiger, Stripes. She loved that little guy.”

A holiday tradition was born the next year when the then-two-year-old Amelia, now 13, was obsessed with polar bears. “I thought it would be a nice Christmas gift, plus she’d be contributing to the animals she loves,” Ally says. “Amelia loved her polar bear so much that I told her we’d adopt animals every year.”

At first the animals were surprises. But when Sarah, now 11, was born, Amelia wanted to help pick an animal for her baby sister. Each year after that, the girls would choose their own and place an order as soon as WWF-Canada announced its new species. Sometimes this important decision could take hours! When Ally and her partner Blair blended their families, his son Joseph, 9, joined the tradition.

Sarah at The Merchant Tavern with her "house hippo."
Sarah at The Merchant Tavern with her “house hippo.” (c) Ally Baird

“Honestly, I’ve lost count,” Ally says when asked how many species her family has symbolically adopted. But the holiday memories they’ve created together won’t soon be forgotten. Like the time Sarah chose a panda for the third year in a row because she really cares about them, or when Amelia burst into happy tears when she received her wolf.

“They’ve chosen well,” says Ally of this year’s picks: the platypus; pika; and ring-tailed lemur. And for the children in her Little Sprouts childcare centre, Ally has adopted a grizzly she adeptly named Raffi after their favourite musician. As an early childhood educator, Ally appreciates the educational component of the adoption kits, “because they get children talking about different species that they may not be familiar with.”

For her own children, Ally hopes their holiday tradition of philanthropy has also passed down an appreciation for nature and helped them understand that there’s more to gifts than getting a thing. “A cuddly toy is always a hit,” she says, but the real gift is “supporting a charity that does good work around the world.”

Give a gift that can change the world

New year, new species, new hope for wildlife. That could be your tradition, too. Choose from over 40 species and give a memorable gift that supports WWF-Canada’s efforts to protect wildlife, restore habitats and fight climate change. Adopt a species at