Julie Woodyer had been integral in connecting the late Television Celebrity Bob Barker to a Manitoba couple who were starting up a Black Bear Cub rehabilitation centre in Stonewall. Woodyer says she's been in regular contact with Barker over the years, until his passing. 

She's the Campaign Director for Zoocheck Canada as well as director of Stonewall's Black Bear Rescue Manitoba. Woodyer explains how it came about that Bob Barker was able to leave his mark in our province.

"I had been working with Bob since 2010 on various programs that Zoocheck works on, mostly related to elephants up until that time," says Woodyer. "Bob and I were kind of in regular contact. One day, he just said to me, 'What are you working on this week, Julie?' I said, 'Well, actually, I'm working with trying to partner up with a couple in Manitoba who want to set up a rehab there for black bears. And we think that's a great idea, because currently, there is none in Manitoba, while there was in almost every other province.' And so, he said, 'Oh, that sounds interesting. How can I help with that?' And so, that's how it started."

Originally, she notes she contacted him about the controversy with Lucy the lone elephant who had been kept at a zoo in Edmonton suffering frigid winters.

"That was my initial contact with him back around 2010. Since that time, I had worked with him on several different things," continues Woodyer. 

Woodyer says she kept in contact with Barker pretty much until his passing.

"His foundation wound down a little bit before that," adds Woodyer. "So, you know, I think he was starting to feel like managing it all was quite difficult, right? You can imagine, if you're Bob Barker, you get requests constantly from animal protection groups all around the world for various projects. Trying to vet all those projects and figure out which ones are the kind that you want to fund. So, that's a heck of a lot of work."

She says she also met him in Toronto when he helped them move the elephants in the Toronto Zoo to the Paws Sanctuary in California, a home for exploited elephants.

"He had come to Toronto to meet some city councilors and so on, in order to persuade them to send those elephants to the sanctuary," says Woodyer. "So, I got to work with him a bunch of times. He was just such a pleasure. He's one of the funniest men I've ever met in my life; very humourous, and sharp as a tack. At that time, I guess, he must have been in his late 80s. Everybody kind of goes, 'Oh, he's 99,' but even to work in your late 80s was something."

Woodyer notes he was traveling at that time taking part in so many ventures. She explains that no matter what was going on, he always had something funny to say.

"He's just a real pleasure to work with, and so generous; not just with his money, although that, too. But with his time. When I was with him, as you can imagine, anywhere you are with Bob Barker, people are coming up to him telling him how much they love him, and how much they loved his show, and, 'We watched him for all those years,' blah, blah, blah. And no matter the time of day, he was always responsive and gracious with his time."

She adds Barker left his mark all across Canada, including Manitoba. Woodyer says he was deeply involved with animal protection, and it's to imagine anyone who would fill his shoes with such important and rare help. 

Judy Stearns owns Black Bear Rescue Manitoba, and notes although she never met Barker, she's been a life-long fan.

"Julie Woodyer and I knew each other and she was behind us to help us get our facility going," says Stearns. "She called and gave us this exciting news that Bob wanted to give us $50,000 to help get our facility going. We got the funds transferred to us and used the money to build what we're calling our Bear Building, which is central control for our whole facility in the summer. It's where everything happens for from incoming cubs, to cubs on release day, and prepping of their food. It's a really busy place and we weren't even planning on erecting a building at that location. We were just going to have the bear enclosures, basically. We realized, 'Wow, we couldn't even have functioned without this building.'"

She notes Barker always ended his TV gameshow, saying, "Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered."

"I mean, that was drilled into all of our brains. And when we watched the show. Every day he closed the show with that but he did much more than that. He had a lot of things going for animals. So, I knew that so that's why I was especially thrilled that he would kind of help little old us, so to speak, here in Manitoba to start something from scratch like that. It was amazing."

Stearns says they named their third cub that went through the rehab after Bob Barker.

"We name our cubs alphabetically," adds Stearns. "Our third cub came in, and we started with the letter B. It was a little female. So, we named her Bobbi. That's what we did to honour him. We call the building, 'The building Bob built.' She thanked him on our behalf of the organization. He knew he always had an open invitation to come up and see the facility if he was ever up this way."

She adds if you're interested in their work and the cubs, you can go to Facebook or Instagram, Black Bear Rescue Manitoba. 

"Also, if anyone wanted to help us out, we're a registered charity. We run 100 per cent on public donations. You can make a donation in Bob's name. I'm sure he would be happy about that, to keep our facility going that he helped us start."


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