Life is an incredible journey. Along the way, we zig-zag through the pitfalls and the triumphs. Filled with choices, we explore many different paths. Until one day, everything coalesces and our true destiny manifests.
By chance, Candilynn Lockhart met her husband, Michael Lockhart, at a gym in Virginia. Years earlier, when sports entertainment was at its peak, Candilynn took advantage of a great opportunity to break into the World Wrestling entertainment industry as a female wrestler.
Although Candilynn left the wrestling industry for several years prior to their meeting, she seized the opportunity to re-enter the squared circle. “Thats when I met Dylan Night,” Candilynn recalls.
Dylan Night, Michael Lockhart’s wrestling character, had shifted his persona from a good guy to a bad guy. That’s where her wrestling character, Candi, stepped in.
“We were the dastardly duo who always cheated to win. Fans loved to hate us,” Candilynn muses. “We loved to entertain and it was very apparent every time we stepped out of the curtain.”
At the height of their wrestling career, Michael and Candilynn (well-known for her role as The Blonde Geisha, female manager for The Orient Express) were ring performers, in-ring trainers, running the locker rooms, writing scripts, and mentoring new talent.
However, they were also parents with a home-life and both Michael and Candilynn had severe physical ailments. Michael was struggling with injuries: two bad knees, torn rotator cuffs, broken elbow cartilage, nerve damage, and loss of some vision due to concussions.
Candilynn, having lived with Crohn's Disease and Endometriosis, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. “It was time to hang up the boots.”
They moved back to Detroit to have the support of family. Within months, Michael and Candilynn adopted a pregnant puppy mill rescue, found a dog in a dumpster, and then found DaVinci's mother in a Detroit ally. Candilynn recalls, “It was our new life calling that would change things forever.”
When an area like Detroit is economically depressed, there is an increase in both human and animal suffering; people focus on their own survival and forget about others.
“Animals are the biggest victims in these circumstances,” says Candilynn who, along with Michael, founded the DaVinci Foundation for Animals, a non-profit animal rescue organization. Citing rampant dog fighting, dog baiting, cruelty, and lack of humane education and caregiver responsibility, Candilynn says, “New situations occur daily. We have many issues to solve, stop, and change.”
For example, after tirelessly trying to help a homeless family keep their dog, the dog was surrendered to an animal control facility. Although the DaVinci Foundation for Animals saved the dog from Death Row by finding a foster home, Michael and Candilynn are now assisting in an investigation regarding animal abuse at the same facility.
As of February 2014, seventeen private and public animal shelters across Michigan are being investigated for abuse, neglect, improper record keeping, and sanitation violations.
Applauding the dedicated volunteers who assist the foundation to make positive change in the lives of Detroit’s needy animals, Candilynn says, “We maximize the effect of our mission by allowing everyone to fulfill their own life calling.”
Furthermore, the DaVinci Foundation for Animals is developing a nationwide network to support their joint mission, including but not limited to animal rescues nationwide, animal rights lawyers, veterinarians, and plane transporters, who voluntarily transport animals in high-kill shelters to animal rescues across the United States that have room in their foster programs.
“Precious lives can be saved and brought to an area that is not as overpopulated with pets needing homes,” Michael states. “If we all do our part and work together, we can save more lives.”
With a deep appreciation of all art forms, Michael and Candilynn also created the DaVinci Artists to build a supportive place for artists who love and help animals by exploring and expanding their dreams and goals through their art.
“Art plays an important part in animal advocacy,” Candilynn believes. For many years, Michael and Candilynn traveled endless hours for little to no pay in the entertainment industry. “Some would think it was a glamorous career, but we know first hand what it is like to be a starving artist.”
Michael and Candilynn encourage everyone, beginner or professional, to become a DaVinci Artist.
The youngest DaVinci Artist, Austin Proux, a talented and aspiring graphic artist, joined the DaVinci Foundation for Animals to gain experience, but also out of a deep desire to help animals. Candilynn beams, “We are incredibly proud that he is a DaVinci Artist.”
Best-selling author and Detroit native, Mitch Albom, is also a huge supporter of The DaVinci Foundation for Animals; Albom was the first to tell DaVinci’s story.
As their programs expand, so does their need for support. Among many lifesaving projects, the feral cat program is in need of volunteers to monitor traps, feed cats, and do veterinary runs. Foster parents for dogs and cats are a continuous need; sponsoring a dog or cat will help with an individual animals’ care and medical bills.
In April, they will kick off their Heroes Helping Heroes Campaign, an initiative to place animal oxygen masks on every firetruck in Metro Detroit.
“Arson is an enormous issue here. Many animals die from smoke inhalation in arson-related fires,” Michael explains of the program to better equip firefighters with lifesaving equipment for companion animals. “We hope to start with our city and ultimately continue to send animal oxygen masks to firehouses across the nation.”
“We also hope to go into Detroit schools this upcoming year to teach children the responsibilities of being good pet guardians, dog safety, and highlight, in a sensitive manner, the horrors of puppy mills and dog fighting,” Candilynn says. “Coordinators and speakers are both needed for this new program in development.”
“Children are our future,” Michael adds. “If we educate properly now, our world will change.”
For more information, visit The DaVinci Foundation for Animals website. Click here to access The DaVinci Foundation for Animals donation wish list, donate through PayPal, and volunteer. All artists can learn more to become a DaVinci Artist.