Kids Who Care! American Humane Awards Kids Demonstrating Kindness to Animals

The American Humane Association's Be Kind to Animals™ Kids Contest, now in its 12th year, seeks to honor young people who make an outstanding contribution to improve the lives and welfare of animals. The 2005 contest was generously sponsored by Del Monte pet products, makers ofproducts like 9Lives® cat food, Kibbles'n Bits® dog food, Pounce® cat treats, and Pup-Peroni® dog treats. A Grand Prize winner in each age group category (ages 6-9 and 10-13) was awarded a $5000 prize and the five runners-up received prize packages from the American Humane Association. Take a look at what these dedicated kids accomplished to win this year's Be Kind to Animals Kids Contest!

About the Grand Prize Winners

Connie "Bagley" Knox, eight, Tega Cay, S.C. (Ages 6 to 9)

Bagley began volunteering at the York County Humane Society while in the first grade. Now in third grade, Bagley continues to spend time after school each Wednesday with the shelter animals, giving them love and attention, teaching dogs how to walk on a leash, and cuddling the kittens. She also helps raise money and donations for the shelter. At her suggestion, Bagley's Girl Scout troop has generously donated a portion of their annual cookie sale proceeds to the shelter for three years running. As an example of her dedication, Bagley chose to have an animal-themed birthday party, where friends were asked to bring pet food, supplies, and toys instead of gifts for her.

Michael Valdez, 13, Tucson, Ariz. (Ages 10 to 13)

Since third grade, Michael has been raising money to outfit Arizona police dogs with bullet- and stab-proof vests. Now an active eighth grader, he's raised over $70,000, providing protective vests for nearly 100 police dogs throughout Arizona. Over the years, his efforts have grown. What was once the personal mission of a determined, little boy has become Protect Police K-9, a fully functioning non-profit organization that boasts its own board of directors, volunteers, and website (http://www.protectpolicek-9.com/). Protect Police K-9 works to raise funds and promote the protection of police dogs in Arizona.

About the runners-up (Ages 6-9)

William Getman, seven, Baldwinsville, New York

Last August, when William Getman turned seven, he opted out of the traditional birthday party. Instead, he decided to have a party for the homeless animals at the Central New York SPCA and Wanderer's Rest Humane Association, both located near his home in Baldwinsville, New York.

The first time he visited the shelter, he told his mother, "Mom, they look sad. They need toys." So William made sure they got some. While most kids his age would have been jumping for joy over the new toys and games they received for their birthday, William was busy filling a pickup truck with his birthday treasures: food, toys, and blankets for needy animals. But the giving didn't stop there. Word got around about William's unique and generous birthday party idea, and his mother, Barbara, says she now gets calls from other parents wanting to do the same thing.

William's extraordinary kindness for animals has inspired many, both kids his own age and adults, as well. Perhaps this is best summed up by Shelly English, director of Wanderer's Rest: "It never ceases to amaze me that the youngest among us have the most compassion and selflessness."

About the runners-up (Ages 10-13)

McKenna Guettinger, 12, Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Nearly five years ago, on McKenna Guettinger's eighth birthday, she asked her friends to bring presents of food and supplies for the animals at Eau Claire County Humane Association (ECCHA). That year, McKenna brought 275 pounds of supplies to the ECCHA. On her ninth birthday, McKenna collected over 300 pounds of supplies.

In 2002, when McKenna decided to participate in her community's "Make A Difference Day," there was no question as to where she would direct her efforts. She gathered friends, solicited funding, and designed a door hanger, requesting pet food and supplies for shelter animals. The hangers were distributed throughout her community, and on Make A Difference Day, McKenna and her team went through the neighborhoods, collecting piles of donations, which they delivered to EECHA. This marked the first ever Make A Difference Animal Shelter Food Drive. In 2004, the same year McKenna was honored with ECCHA's Youth Volunteer Award, the food drive also reached a new level of success, resulting in 1,000 pounds of food donated.

Hilary Harris, 10, Eatonville, Washington

When she was five-years-old, Hilary Harris made a visit to her local humane society to adopt a cat, where she noticed how many homeless animals there were from her community. For her next birthday party, she asked her guests to bring pet food and toys to give to the animals at the Pierce County Humane Society, instead of gifts for her.

Hilary celebrated her seventh and eighth birthdays the same way, but it was before her ninth birthday, in 2003, when inspiration struck. Hilary rallied other classrooms in her school to a Pet Food Challenge and personally provided the prize (a pizza party) for the winning classroom. The school and Hilary collected 1,700 pounds of food that was donated to the Pierce County Humane Society. In the fall of 2004, she expanded her efforts even more, by initiating a competition with another elementary school in the district for an even bigger Pet Food Challenge. Between the two schools, a total of 6,700 pounds of food went to the shelter animals. In March of 2005, ten year old Hilary Harris received the Legion's Citizen Award from the American Legion Auxilary for her efforts in the community.

Hilary's understanding of how to be kind to animals is goes much deeper than keeping them fed. When asked if she had suggestions of ways other people can show kindness to animal, she was quick to respond, "Yes. Spay and neuter your animals, so there's not that many leftover, so there aren't so many who don't get loving homes."

Tyler McGee, 13, Apple Valley, California

Thirteen-year old Tyler (right in photo) and his sidekick Shadow, a Welsh Corgi, work to improve the lives of others in their community, by sharing that one-of-a-kind sense of joy and well-being that comes from an animal's loving presence. It all began when Tyler visited his brother in the hospital and noticed a "therapy" dog was there to cheer patients up. He immediately knew that he and his cherished dog, Shadow, could offer others the same joy. Tyler and Shadow now spend five to twelve hours a week, visiting hospitals and nursing homes. Tyler knows that Shadow helps cheer the elderly residents. "Shadow helps brings back good memories for them," he says, "and they tell us all about the animals they used to have."

Tyler and Shadow have also become a certified READ team, going to schools and libraries to help younger children improve literacy skills. More than just helping them read, Tyler believes Shadow helps them in other ways. "Some of the kids have a fear of dogs," he says, "and being with Shadow helps them get over their fears. He just lays there, and he licks their hands and then they start petting him and pretty soon they can't get enough of Shadow." According to Tyler, Shadow understands he's helping the kids. "Every time a kid sits down to read, he puts his head on their lap and looks interested [in their story] and looks at the pictures."

So they always have plenty to read, two years ago, Tyler organized Paws to READ Agility Fun Run, an event whose entrance fee is a book donated to the READ program. This year's Agility Fun Run resulted in 147 books and $1,000 in donations for the program.

Abigail Rikas, 13, York, Pennsylvania

Thirteen-year old Abigail "Abbey" Rikas was known as Little Miss Doolittle. But as a 2005 BKA runner up, Abbey will be officially known as Little Miss Do-A-Lot.

Now an avid horse lover, Abbey first fell in love with the animals at Lost and Found Horse Rescue. She's quick to admit that horses are her favorite animals. "They're so intelligent!" she adds.
Abbey decided to conduct a fundraiser to help Lost and Found Horse Rescue with their work. She created a school-wide "penny war" fundraiser, whose proceeds would go to the rescue group. Although Little Miss Do-A-Lot wanted to raise money to save one horse ($400), with the help of her classmates, the week-long fundraiser exceeded $2,000 in profits enough to save five horses! Thanks to Abbey's efforts, two horses have been adopted to loving homes, while the rest of the money was put to use providing for the other "orphans."
At the moment, Abbey is too young to volunteer at the Lost and Found Rescue, instead she donates most of her allowance to the SPCA while caring for her many animals (a puppy, two turtles, two rabbits, tadpoles, schools of fish, and her cat). Abbey's love and passion for animals has inspired her to be a veterinarian one day and have a horse of her own. "I think God put animals on this earth for a reason," she explains, "and we should respect them because it's their world too."

About American Humane

Founded in 1877, the American Humane Association is the nation's only organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Through a network of child and animal welfare and protection agencies and individuals, American Humane develops policies, legislation, curriculum, and trainings to protect children and animals from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. The nonprofit membership organization, headquartered in Denver, raises awareness about The Link® between animal abuse and other forms of violence, as well as the benefits derived from the human and animal bond. American Humane's regional office in Los Angeles is the authority behind the "No Animals Were Harmed…"® End Credit Disclaimer on TV and film productions, and American Humane's office in Washington, DC, is an advocate for child- and animal-friendly legislation at the state and federal levels. Visit www.americanhumane.org to learn more.

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