We all know the name of the KBTF founder, John Van den Bergh, but we may not be familiar with the actual person who leads our Foundation as its volunteer President or why he founded the KBTF.
We might be able to guess at why-it was his love and concern for the breed we all hold special. John said it was in the late nineties that he got frustrated with the lack of a coordinated effort to rescue Kerries.
While some Kerry clubs did good rescue work, whole sections of the country were not served. Secondly, there was no nonprofit organization to benefit Kerries; hence no tax-deductible contribution could be made to benefit the breed. At the same time, John was aware of this enormous reservoir of potential volunteers that wanted to help and donate. Realizing that it was just a matter of organization to bring the need and the means together, John took on this task and so on February 22, 2002, the Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation was incorporated.
John's experience with Kerries preceded the foundation by about a decade. In 1990 John moved from urban San Francisco to rural Santa Barbara County and, being no longer a city dweller, was ready for his first dog. It was his wife's allergies that narrowed down the breed to Wheaten and Kerries. Through the USKBTC he found Barbara & Catherine Wright, who were expecting a litter of Kerries. John and his ex-wife Jan picked up their Jazz at a puppy match and, says John, "my life changed forever."
John and Jan did the show circuit and Jazz became a champion. They bred her and placed all but one of her 7 puppies. Guinness, the funny dude of the litter, was not only the tallest Kerry at 23" in the world, but also the easiest going Kerry. However since Guinness passed away, John has only owned rescue Kerries.
While sharing somethings about his life, it began clear that John has the spirit of a Kerry blue terrier: strength, independence, and always looking ahead to the next adventure. "I was born in Belgium and immigrated to the US as a teenager--by myself. I worked my way through college and graduated with an MBA from the University of Michigan in 1975. Since then I've had a career in finance and management. "Currently I am reorganizing state governmental services in a few small communities in Northeastern California, including water, sewer, parks, roads, fire protection, power and whatever else is needed," he said.
As in most volunteer efforts, the volunteering has its own rewards. For John that reward is seeing the foundation working like a well oiled machine: the Foundation is run by volunteers. John says his involvement is limited to the over-all direction of the organization. "The Foundation is less and less dependent on my work which means it will survive me, and that is very rewarding."
John's leadership and understanding of the needs of the breed has made the Kerry Blue Foundation different from other Kerry organizations. The distinctions are very clear and manifest themselves in everything we do: the KBTF focuses on the dog-not the owner or breeder. This focus simplifies and clarifies all our decisions. We always ask ourselves how our policies help the dog. It also avoids having to belong to any group or organization, or living in a geographic area. John adds "If you want to do something for Kerries, you are welcome to join us."
"The Foundation has a good endowment that we do not plan to dip into, but use it as a source of investment income to help fund our operation. The Foundation is financially sound, and our policies are proven and practical. We have excellent managers on our teams and I feel comfortable leaving the Foundation in the next few years."
John says that running the Foundation is a daily job; however "it does not necessarily make me an expert in Kerry behavior." John explains that if there is one thing he has learned from observing the world of Kerries over the last few decades, it is that Kerries are very special dogs and require a very special owner. "Both will be unhappy if they are not matched perfectly. Therefore, everyone who is considering a Kerry should learn as much as possible about the breed, not only from reading about them, but by talking with Kerry owners, and becoming familiar with the special needs of Kerries.