Caring for animals is everyone’s duty, yet we can’t help but be inspired when we hear about youth who are going above and beyond to take care of our furry friends.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards is recognizing some remarkable young women who were named among their states’ top youth volunteers of 2013 for their work keeping animals safe.
Shaylee Rizzo, 17, of Kenai, Alaska, a senior at Nikiski Middle/High School, started a public service campaign called the “Missy the Moose Program” to raise children’s awareness of the dangers of cars hitting moose on Alaska’s highways, a common occurrence in her area during the hazardous winter months. “Every year hundreds of moose are killed by vehicles, sending people to the hospital and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage,” explained Shaylee. “I believe the solution is empowering children to help adults drive with greater caution.”
Shaylee wrote and illustrated a children’s book. Wearing a moose costume, she then began visiting elementary school classrooms as Missy the Moose, sharing her book with the kids and offering ideas on how to encourage their parents to watch out for Missy and her friends. With the help of her father, she wrote a theme song, recorded radio announcements urging children to get their parents to slow down. Currently, she is trying to gain state approval to post Missy the Moose signs in high moose-traffic areas to remind motorists to drive with care. “The incident that made me realize I was having an impact was when a parent told me they were driving down the road on a cold winter night when they heard their first grader exclaim from the backseat, ‘Mom! Watch out for Missy!’”
Devon Rodriguez-Cayro, 14, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., an eighth-grader at Mechanicsburg Middle School, has raised more than $12,000 for homeless pets by participating in the Harrisburg Humane Society’s annual river plunge and selling homemade treats at school and craft shows. When Devon heard about the Humane Society’s New Years Day “Penguin Plunge” in the Susquehanna River four years ago, she wanted to get involved. “I have always loved animals and thought this would be a great way to have fun with others who felt the same,” she said. She began by creating her own fundraising page on the society’s website to solicit donations in advance of jumping into the icy Susquehanna.
Then she started making and selling a variety of treats to students and teachers at her school while dressed as a penguin to draw attention to her fundraising mission. Later, Devon produced a song and video about homeless animals. The money she’s raised has helped the Humane Society of Harrisburg Area add onto its building and pay for animal care. “You need to find your passion and volunteer for what you believe in,” said Devon.
*The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. Since 1995, more than 345,000 young Americans have participated in the program. Each year, the program’s judges select 102 State Honorees to receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. where, on May 6th, 10 of them will be named National Honorees. Watch a live webcast of the May 6th event.
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Congratulations Shaylee and Devon! And let's hear it for all our young people who care about animals and are taking steps to Be the Change.
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