Four kind kids from across the nation dedicated to helping animals have been named winners in the American Humane Association’s Be Kind to Animals™ Kid Contest. Congratulations are in order for grand-prize winners Hannah M. Blaze of Independence, Ohio, and Justin Strawser of Grantville, Pa., and runners-up Janis Lin Brehler of Asheville, N.C., and Christina George of Santa Maria, Calif.
These winners have gone above and beyond to help animals, from spearheading the development of a new animal shelter to teaching animal first-aid, these young people have proven they are role models in humanitarianism.
“This year, kids and teens from Hawaii to Maine were nominated for their kindness and compassion,” said Dr. Marie McCabe, vice president of American Humane’s Human-Animal Interactions programs. “Some were volunteers at animal shelters, some raised money or gathered supplies to donate to shelters, and some spoke out on issues affecting companion animals. American Humane applauds all the nominees for all they do to help animals in their communities. And we are proud to recognize four special kids with prizes, and hope that they will be viewed as role models for other children, as well as for adults, with regard to the importance of the bond between humans and animals and treating animals with compassion and respect.”
American Humane’s Be Kind to Animals Week® is being observed May 2-8 this year. Created in 1915, it is the oldest event in the nation to celebrate the companionship, friendship and love that animals bring into people’s lives. Animal shelters throughout the country hold special events during this week to raise awareness about being kind to animals and to teach people about the benefits of the human-animal bond. Be Kind to Animals Week is a great time to promote the wonderful work being done by the nation’s animal welfare organizations and to encourage everyone to get involved in making a difference for animals.
Here’s a brief look at the grand-prize winners:
Grand-Prize Winner (ages 6 to 12)
Hannah M. Blaze, age 11, Independence, Ohio
When Hannah noticed the conditions at her city’s animal shelter, she was dismayed. The shelter was located in a small room in the city service garage. Up to 17 cats and kittens were housed in a stack of steel cages, “smushed together,” according to Hannah. There were no windows and the cats were subjected to the barking of the dogs, which were right next to them. Hannah knew that something had to be done for the animals, and urgently. “They can’t really speak out for themselves,” she said, “they needed someone to help.” Hannah went to a city council meeting by herself. She got up before the crowd and spoke on behalf of the animals in the shelter facility. She told of the conditions and made suggestions for change, like providing an area for the dogs to run in and moving the cats to a nicer location. She even offered to help out. Soon after, new fencing was installed at the shelter to create a nice dog run. Later, the cats were moved into a different building. The new cat shelter is housed in a previously unused building, which Hannah helped clean up and prepare for the purpose. This new cat shelter has plenty of windows, allows the cats to roam freely and has drawn more notice by the community. Consequently, most of the cats have been adopted.
Grand-Prize Winner (ages 13 to 17)
Justin Strawser, age 13, Grantville, Pa.
It all started when Justin and his family adopted Sweet Pea, a mixed-breed dog, from rescue organization Dogs Deserve Better (DDB). Most of the dogs at DDB come from households where they have been confined and neglected on the ends of chains. He decided to do whatever he could for the dogs remaining at the rescue. Justin and his family read about DDB’s “Sponsor a Dog for the Holidays” program, which asks donors to give dogs what they need, such as food, treats, toys or help with veterinary bills. Justin’s mother told him to read each dog’s story and choose one to buy for. He picked them all. “Their stories melt your heart,” he explained. He gathered his spare change, birthday money and savings and bought items off the lists, including treats, dog beds, toys and food. It amounted to more than $600. And Justin does not plan to stop his annual giving or limit his generosity to one shelter. “I won’t stop giving dogs what they need to have,” he said. Justin has also fervently taken up DDB’s cause: educating the public about the inhumane treatment of chaining or penning dogs for prolonged periods. He spreads the word about chaining by telling his friends and teachers about it and he has his own website (www.donatetoysfordogs.com). “They are not just animals,” he explains, “they are just like us.”
For more information on Be Kind to Animals Week and the contest runners-up, and for tips on ways to show kindness to animals, go to www.americanhumane.org/bkaw.
About American Humane Association
Since 1877, the historic American Humane Association has been at the forefront of every major advancement in protecting children, pets and farm animals from cruelty and abuse and neglect. Today we’re also leading the way in understanding human-animal interaction and its role in society. As the nation’s voice for the protection of children and animals, American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.