Brockport Alum Working to "Save All the Dogs... and the Cats, Too"
As co-owner of Operation Freedom Ride, inc., entrepreneur Carly Hansford '10 has helped create a better life for hundreds of animals.
What started as an idea to help find homes for sheltered animals in the Rochester area ended with more than 20 puppies from Georgia frolicking through the home of Carly Hansford ’10.
Hansford, who earned a degree in journalism from SUNY Brockport, is co-owner of Operation Freedom Ride, inc. Started in 2017 by Hansford, Ben Cometa, and Avery Hicks, this non-profit animal rescue brings surrendered dogs and cats from the south of the United States to the Rochester area for fostering and adoption while also helping local surrenders.
“There’s a need for rescue in Rochester, but when we started with the transports, we realized there’s a huge need for rescue down south,” said Hansford. “Litters of puppies and perfectly healthy and friendly adult dogs are being euthanized daily there because of an overpopulation problem.”
Since that first haul of Georgia puppies, the Operation Freedom Ride team has rescued more than 700 dogs and more than 300 cats — and there’s a breed for everyone.
“We'll find local adopters what they're looking for down south and bring it to them,” said Hansford. (The only breed the team avoids plucking from the south is the pitbull, as a surplus of Rochester-area pitbulls are in need of forever homes.)
As co-owner of the organization, Hansford plays a role in helping to manage its multiple growing teams: foster, adoption, vetting, fundraising, and social media.
She believes serving as one-third of the Operation Freedom Ride ownership team equivalates to a full-time job, but it isn’t her only one. She also works as a senior marketing coordinator for a health insurance company and has taken on multiple side jobs, including pet sitting/walking.
“Most days, I’m probably working from 7:30 am until sometimes 8 pm, if not longer. Rescue is round-the-clock work,” she said.
She says that her passion for what she calls her "dream job" makes it all well worth it, and she isn't looking to seize up any time soon. The team has begun to discuss expanding to the Buffalo and Syracuse regions, perhaps starting a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, or launching a rescue mentorship program that trains others looking to start a rescue program.
Hansford says her Brockport education has helped prepare her for the communication- and team-based work Operation Freedom Ride demands.
“I worked for The Stylus, and I think that helped me with my communication skills when it comes to reaching out to foster parents and adopters, and working as part of a team helped as well," said Hansford.
Another Brockport alum, Kris Condello ’10, also works on the Operation Freedom Ride team as a foster coordinator, a role in which she opens her home to dogs while assisting others in navigating the foster process.
“Pursuing psychology and sociology at Brockport with a concentrated interested in counseling assisted in my overall interest in helping the community,” said Condello. “My education has helped me to be emotionally available to help our community with difficult situations when it comes to fostering.”
Hansford's advice to other budding entrepreneurs is to learn from those who’ve taken on a similar endeavor, through shadowing, mentoring, or volunteering; be prepared to lose on a daily basis; and develop a capacity to acknowledge, fix, and learn from mistakes in order to continuously move forward.
As the animal lover, marketing professional, volunteer, and entrepreneur has hundreds of dogs, cats — and people — relying on her, it's important for Hansford to follow her own advice. She says she confronts challenges on the daily, such as sacrificing some control, handling animals' behavioral issues and severe medical cases, and supporting multiple rapidly expanding factions of the team.
"I'm an everyday person. I am no different from you or anyone else. But, I took this step to follow my dream, and it's coming to fruition," said Hansford. "We're helping so many animals and people in the process, and I think that's something to be proud of."