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Hilary Swank Honored in SD for Animal Advocacy

Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank may be known for her knock-out performances, but she took home an award Saturday night for her work off-camera.

The Petco Foundation honored Swank for her animal advocacy efforts at the sixth annual Hope Fundraising Gala in San Diego.

“It’s extraordinary to be given this Hope Award,” said Swank. “I’m just one individual, but I think we are all coming together collectively to remind each other to give hope for these animals and the welfare of animals.”

Swank’s love of pets started at the tender age of 11, when she got her first dog. The “Million Dollar Baby” star said the animal touched a place in her heart she didn’t know could be reached.

Since then, Swank has learned a few things from her four-legged pals.

“Patience, persistence, resiliency, being in the moment – the list goes on and on – and loving without judgment,” Swank said. “They truly teach you so many different, important values.”

Swank’s organization, the Hilaroo Foundation, takes half of its name from her former dog Karoo — the pet that inspired her to start working in animal advocacy. “I adopted her, yet in the end, I think she rescued me,” the actress explained.

Through her foundation, children who have been given up on are paired with animals that have been abandoned to help heal each other.

They work on rescue, rehabilitation, animal adoption and responsibility training.

“I just don’t feel that any soul should be abandoned and discarded by society, and every soul needs to feel like somebody cares and believes in them,” Swank said.

At the gala Saturday, Swank had an adorable date by her side – her rescued dog Kai, who is carrying on Karoo’s legacy.

The black-tie event featured live and silent auctions, and a portion of the proceeds benefited the Hilaroo Foundation.

The Petco Foundation’s Hope Award recognizes people or groups who share the goal of improving pets’ quality of life. Past winners include Ellen DeGeneres, Lily Tomlin and Betty White.

“Six to eight million animals get put to sleep in the United States alone every single year, so it’s really our job and our responsibility to help them – to help these animals who have no voice, to be their voice,” Swank said, summing up her mission.