Kim Blankert — the mother of Jasmine Lovett and grandmother of Aliyah Sanderson, who were murdered in April 2019 — has used the extra money from a GoFundMe fundraiser meant to cover funeral expenses to open three pet-friendly rooms at the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.
“Calgary and beyond Calgary, everyone was incredibly generous and supportive, and so much so that I had to do something extra and give back to the community somehow,” she told Global News on Tuesday.
“I felt that this was a good charity and an important one to support, and I’m really happy that we did that. We donated $25,000.”
The team put in hard work to create the suites, Blankert said, adding there are plaques honouring Lovett and Sanderson outside each room. Blankert said the effort has touched many people who are “grateful they are able to bring their pets.”
The pet-friendly rooms will have a big impact on women fleeing domestic violence, said Kim Ruse, CEO of the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.
“Our pets are part of the family and aren’t generally thought of as barriers, yet they often are for women escaping violence. Victims will delay leaving or consider returning to their partner because they fear for the safety of their pets,” she said.
“Allowing pets in the shelter helps provide emotional and healing support for women and their children during their stay, which can be life-changing in their journey.”
Donating the money is a step forward for Blankert’s family after dealing with the loss of Lovett and Sanderson and sitting through an agonizing murder trial, of which closing arguments ended on Nov. 2. The judge-alone trial is awaiting a decision.
“It’s a positive step in amongst all of the horribleness — for lack of a better word — that’s been going on, and it shines a light on their souls,” Blankert said.
The rooms opened in June 2020, but the formal dedication ceremony was on Tuesday, delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ruse said.
“I was filled with all different kinds of emotions, mostly happiness and pride. Of course, it’s a sad situation, but the fact that their names will be remembered this way is just really beautiful,” Blankert said.
“I’m just really pleased to be part of it and thankful that we can put their names to something good.”
Lovett and Sanderson were last seen on April 16, 2019, police said. They were reported missing on April 23, 2019, after they did not show up for a dinner.
The pair’s disappearance became a homicide investigation on April 25, 2019. Police found their bodies in Kananaskis — in a “heavily wooded area near Grizzly Creek located off Highway 40” — on May 6, 2019.
Robert Leeming, a 36-year-old U.K. citizen, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Lovett, 25, but not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Lovett’s daughter, 22-month-old Sanderson.
Leeming testified he hit Lovett, his former girlfriend and tenant, on the head with a hammer and shot her. A forensic pathologist said Sanderson died of blunt-force trauma.