by LYDIA COBB | photos by Soul of Photography

Happy Trails

volunteer_cotton_1The small beach town vibe of Del Mar is what drew Robert Cotton and his late wife, Anna Cotton, here in 1984. “I started surfing in high school when I lived in Puerto Rico,” mentioned Robert, “and continued when I came to California for college at USD.” He and his wife were married for 30 years. “Anna was my true soul mate,” revealed Robert. Anna, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013, passed away after valiant efforts and treatments.

Robert is a retired entrepreneur with a diverse list of past career ventures. Three years ago he started giving back to his passion for animals. Though he served as a board member in numerous organizations in his career, these days, it’s all about volunteering hands-on. He elaborated, “Now that I am retired, I prefer to work on the ground level.”

Robert volunteers for the nationally recognized Helen Woodward Animal Center. The center focuses on the rescue and adoption of abandoned, surrendered, and homeless domesticated animals. Robert was first introduced to Helen Woodward’s volunteering opportunities when he attended their annual Spring Fling Gala in 2013 (the 2016 Gala will take place June 4). He walks dogs and provides general support for the veterinary technicians. This is people helping animals, and animals helping people, according to the organization’s mission.

Volunteering is for anyone, and Robert recommends getting involved no matter the differences between careers and new ventures. “I am willing to get my hands dirty in spite of my diverse background and financial success,” he reflected.

Outdoors is his playground – from exploring Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve to people watching in La Jolla and Little Italy. He also surfs, hikes, and practices yoga. When not enjoying the great outdoors, Robert continues to focus on what really matters. He explained, “The only way we can make a real difference in the world and our community is through a collective effort.”


volunteer_cotton_2Name: Robert M. Cotton
Community: Del Mar
Volunteer Affiliation: Helen Woodward Animal Center
Profession: Retired entrepreneur
Family: Two older brothers, sisters-in-law, and nieces and nephews
Hobbies: Surfing, hiking, and yoga
Favorite Local Spots: Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve and all beaches


Group: Helen Woodward Animal Center
Mission: Helen Woodward Animal Center’s passionate belief that animals help people and people help animals through trust, unconditional love, and respect, creates a legacy of caring. Sharing this philosophy with others, the center inspires and teaches, locally and globally, the importance of the animal-human bond.
Contact: 858-756-4117; www.animalcenter.org