NORTH CAROLINA - They left the comforts of home for the chaos of a disaster zone, but two men from Canton wouldn’t have it any other way. For nearly a week, Andrew Bentz and Dylan Williams have risked life and limb to save dozens of animals from the still-submerged parts of North Carolina that were left decimated by Hurricane Florence.
Bentz and Williams decided to make the treacherous drive to North Carolina from Northeast Ohio right as the hurricane was approaching land.
“We drove down here into the hurricane as it was happening. And we had a heck of a time getting down here, I’ll tell you what,” Bentz, 24, said.
In Bentz’s truck, with boat in tow, the duo had to deal with two flat tires and a broken ball bearing. Not ones to be deterred, the duo immediately got to work.
“I’d love to go down there to help and give back to the community in some way that I can. It sounded like an adventure and if I can help people along the way, I figured I’d do it,” Bentz said. “We basically have exclusively been doing animal rescues.”
Alongside five other volunteers from different parts of the country, the duo’s first mission was to wrangle and rescue a young, untamed horse that was nearly submerged. For hours, the group tried to get control of the young filly before finally tying up the animal and pulling it to safety. The animal very well could have died if not for the rescue, they said.
“People heard about us doing that. They said, ‘These boys can wrestle some horses. You guys captured a filly,’” Williams said. “[Rescue operations organizers said], ‘We’ve got another one for you tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Oh gosh. What is it?’ We’ve got two horses, two mules, two ponies, a sheep and some chickens.”
In total, the duo estimates that they have rescued more than 30 chickens, a half-dozen horses, multiple dogs, a cow and other assorted animals. Never once have they asked for payment from the animals’ owners.
“The owners are just ecstatic, crying tears of joy. I had never seen a man so happy,” Bentz said. “They were hugging us. They tried to give us their cars. They tried to give us everything. They were just so happy. That’s what it is really all about.”
Williams echoed Bentz’ sentiments.
“It’s all here man,” Williams said as he gestured toward his heart. “It’s all about what you’re feeling at the end of the day. We’re not out here making money. We’re out here spending our time, spending our efforts, our energy. We’re getting beat up out here. It is what it is. But at the end of the day, seeing the smiles and tears on the people we’re helping, that’s why we’re doing it.”
Because both men are paying for supplies, food and lodging on their own, they set up an online fundraiser to offset some of the costs. Their goal was a humble $800, but as of Thursday afternoon, the total had ballooned to more than $3000.
“If it helps people out and warms their hearts, I don’t need any credit. We don’t need any credit,” Bentz said. “All the glory goes to God. It’s not us.”