Local philanthropist gives big to RSF Fire Protection District, Helen Woodward Animal Center

Rancho Santa Fe's Sharron MacDonald with her pups Kaycee and Bella.
(Helen Woodward Animal Center)

Sharron MacDonald’s generosity is making a difference for animals and first responders in the Rancho Santa Fe community. The local philanthropist’s caring contributions have made huge impacts at the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District and Helen Woodward Animal Center.

A San Diego native, MacDonald was bicoastal for many years. After her husband passed away she sold their business and moved to Rancho Santa Fe full-time in 2016: “I love it here,” she said.

This year she created her own nonprofit, KayBella Cares, named for her sweet and protective maltipoos Kaycee and Bella. Her philanthropic passions are animals, children, veterans, police and firefighters. She has been a major supporter of organizations such as Promises2Kids, Tunnels to Towers, Feeding San Diego and Scripps Hospital.

When she moved to Rancho Santa Fe for good, she was looking to support a no-kill animal center that was committed to caring for animals.

“Little did I know there was one only five miles away from me,” MacDonald said. “I think it’s wonderful what they do, they’re a wonderful organization.”

For the last five years, her donations have helped Helen Woodward do some incredible things including underwriting life-saving transfers and medical care for orphaned pets from around the country; giving children of center employees safe classroom environments during the pandemic; providing adoptions and veterinary care to military personnel; facilitating pet encounter therapy visits to children and adults dealing with trauma; and providing homeless people’s pets with medical care and spay/neuter procedures.

MacDonald has also supported Helen Woodward’s Ukrainian Animal Crisis Fund, donating a van and medical supplies for animal shelters in Ukraine. “It breaks my heart, the children and the animals to be a part of that horrific war,” she said. It makes her feel really good that the van, emblazoned with “KayBella to the rescue” and silhouettes of her pups, is out there working.

Most exciting for the center, her contributions are enabling Helen Woodward to build the $7.5 million Sharron MacDonald Humane Education Village to share the joy of connecting with animals and teach compassion. The new village will include a six-classroom building and an outdoor space with playgrounds and an area to interact with animals.

“Sharron is in a class all by herself,” said Mike Arms, CEO of Helen Woodward. “She truly loves pets and children and wants to make a difference in the world.”

Living in the community, MacDonald has also become more familiar with the needs of the RSF Fire Department.

Since being involved in a high-speed car accident on a New York expressway, she has a lot of gratitude for first responders.

“I always remembered how the fire department was so helpful to me. Their job is so risky and it seems like they don’t get enough support for what they do,” MacDonald said. “I want to help make their job a little easier and more safer…These people volunteer and they know they may not come home that night.”

MacDonald stepped forward to purchase a new set of auto-extrication tools that would have cost the fire department tens of thousands of dollars. The hydraulic extrication tools (cutter, spreader and ram) allow fire personnel to remove people trapped in vehicles after a collision. The gifted tools have her name inscribed on them.

Additionally, MacDonald recently purchased 60 brand new VHF handheld radios for the department, giving each firefighter their own radio to be used during wildfires. She also purchased a new all-terrain vehicle to be used for trail rescues.

“I don’t know what you do to offer your gratitude to someone like Sharron who does so much for so many,” said Fire Chief David McQuead said. “We are happy to be part of this opportunity to celebrate her amazing generosity.”

MacDonald is not a person who seeks recognition, she only hopes to be an example for others, to highlight the needs in the community and set a positive example. A successful businesswoman, she worked for 60 years and is now in a position to be able to give back: “I’m very lucky to be fortunate enough to help others.”