Mission: Rescue Flight

For many small animal rescue operations, one of the biggest hurdles to saving homeless animals is transportation. No one knows this better than Racing4Rescues, a foster home-based animal rescue organization that was alerted to six puppies in a desperate situation in December of 2018.

“Three of them were found abandoned near a train track in Georgia, and the other three were part of a litter that a man was selling for $30 apiece on the side of the road in Suwannee County,” Danielle Yoho, founder of Racing4Rescues, explained. “The man had 10 dogs tied to a fence, and one was severely anemic and dehydrated.”

Yoho knew she had to help relocate the dogs from the foster facility in Jacksonville, but she had no idea how. That’s when she put out a call for help on some animal rescue message boards. Luckily, Yoho stumbled on exactly the right person to contact.

“When Danielle sent out a plea right before Christmas asking if anyone could help transport these abandoned and rescued puppies from Jacksonville to Clearwater, I told her my husband has his pilot’s license and he would fly up there and bring them home,” said Robin Lally, Co-President of the Forward Foundation and founder of the nonprofit organization The Helping Project.

Graham Lally, co-pilot on the Jan. 6 rescue flight and Forward Foundation board member, holds one of the six rescue puppies flown from Jacksonville to Clearwater as part of a joint mission with the nonprofit Racing4Rescues. (Photo: Jeff Rosenfield)

Wheels Up

In January 2018, Mike Lally, Co-President of the Forward Foundation, and Graham Lally, a Forward Foundation board member, flew the rescue puppies from Jacksonville to Clearwater, where a small crowd, including four of the puppies’ future foster parents, gathered at the Clearwater Airpark to greet the incoming flight containing the precious cargo. Yoho admitted, there were few dry eyes on the tarmac.

“I think we were all pretty teary-eyed,” she said. “We were all like, ‘wow, this is the coolest thing.’ It was really incredible. It couldn’t have worked out any better. We were so happy to be a part of this, but this was not just about us. It was about everyone in the rescue community and all the people who come together to help animals.”

Mike and his son Graham said the 188-mile trip was well worth it.

Rescue Flight Puppies Racing4Rescues - Photograph

Pilot and Co-President of the Forward Foundation Mike Lally (far right) and his son, Forward Foundation board member Graham Lally (center) pose with six rescue puppies and four future foster parents following a flight from Jacksonville to the Clearwater Airpark on Jan. 6, 2018. (Photo: Jeff Rosenfield)

Co-pilot Graham Lally unloads a precious cargo of puppies from his father Mike's plane at the Clearwater Airpark on Jan. 6, 2018. (Photo: Jeff Rosenfield)

“Our family has always been passionate about projects like this,” said Mike Lally. “It was so wonderful to help out such an amazing cause — plus, puppies and flying, what could be better?!”

Although Racing4Rescues shut its doors in 2021, the organization was instrumental in rescuing countless animals over its more than a decade in operation. The Lally says this rescue flight certainly won’t be the last time they jump at the chance to help small, dedicated animal rescues throughout the United States.

“It was really awesome to help people who don’t get a lot of respect for what they do,” said Robin Lally. “They may fly under the radar, but they have my ultimate respect.”

Read the full article about the rescue flight on the Tampa Bay Newspapers website.