Rais­ing Kind Kids

Plant­ing the seeds of in­ter­species kind­ness and em­pa­thy in chil­dren reaps re­wards for fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, and the chil­dren them­selves.


Plant­ing the seeds of in­ter­species kind­ness and em­pa­thy in chil­dren reaps re­wards for fam­i­lies, com­mu­ni­ties, and the chil­dren them­selves.

Five-year-old Juli­eta Martinez loves an­i­mals—not just her own res­cue pups, Si­mona, Lucy and Martina—but all dogs. Her mother, Diana Marcela Duarte Al­varez, vol­un­teers at var­i­ous res­cues, and Juli­eta has been com­ing with her since she was born.

“We al­ways had dif­fer­ent dogs liv­ing in our house un­til we found them new homes,” says Juli­eta’s mother.

So when Juli­eta’s fourth birth­day rolled around and the lit­tle girl asked to col­lect dog food do­na­tions in lieu of re­ceiv­ing gifts, her mother was un­sur­prised. “She used to go with me ev­ery month to buy a cou­ple of big bags of food for the shel­ter, so it was not sur­pris­ing that she un­der­stands the im­por­tance of food for th­ese or­ga­ni­za­tions,” Diana says.

Ten-year-old Gavin Wat­son also loves an­i­mals. Gavin doesn’t speak at school. In fact, he’s not ver­bal with any­one other than his mother, his fa­ther, and one friend. But around dogs, he’s a dif­fer­ent per­son. He does talk to dogs and likes to read to them.

“He’s al­ways bonded bet­ter with an­i­mals than (with) peo­ple,” says his mom, Chris­tine Thom­son. And dogs love Gavin, too.

Gavin is on the autism spec­trum and has a con­di­tion called se­lec­tive mutism. Around dogs, how­ever, he’s com­fort­able. Gavin has been around dogs his whole life. Chris­tine has a dogsit­ting busi­ness, is very in­volved in the res­cue com­mu­nity, and vol­un­teers at the Ot­tawa Hu­mane So­ci­ety (OHS). She also does res­cue trans­port, and since he was very young, Gavin has tagged along. He’s also helped out at res­cue events, and dur­ing many searches for lost and miss­ing pets.

For Gavin’s last birth­day party, he asked for do­na­tions to the shel­ter in­stead of gifts.

“He said he never uses the presents he gets, and he wanted the money to go to help an­i­mals find a home, and to have food,” Chris­tine says proudly. “I think it's re­ally im­por­tant to teach kids that not ev­ery­thing is about what we get for our­selves, but how we can help oth­ers.”

Gavin and Juli­eta are just two of the grow­ing num­ber of chil­dren get­ting in­volved in fundrais­ing for an­i­mal res­cue and wel­fare or­ga­ni­za­tions. It’s a trend be­ing seen all over the con­ti­nent. Ac­cord­ing to Kelly Meincke, man­ager of events at the OHS, 50 per­cent of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s fundrais­ing events are held by youth, rais­ing $40,000 for the shel­ter an­nu­ally.

“We are very ap­pre­cia­tive of do­na­tions from youth in our com­mu­nity,” says Kelly. “When folks are en­gaged in our or­ga­ni­za­tion from a young age, we be­lieve this helps to build life­long sup­port­ers.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion, which helps nearly 10,000 an­i­mals each year, ap­pre­ci­ates “the ef­fort and pas­sion that each youth puts into ev­ery event,” says Kelly. The events in­clude bake sales, lemon­ade stands, garage sales, and birth­day par­ties.

The Hu­mane So­ci­ety of the New Braun­fels area in Texas, which helped 4,300 an­i­mals last year, also fre­quently re­ceives do­na­tions from kids.

“Their ac­tions are self­less and heart­warm­ing,” says the shel­ter’s live out­come co­or­di­na­tor, Wil­liam Sta­ple­ton. “There is noth­ing bet­ter than let­ting them tour the fa­cil­ity [to] see ex­actly how their do­na­tions can help each an­i­mal, dis­cussing heart­worm treat­ment, vet bills, and the gen­eral costs to save an an­i­mal's life.”

Wil­liam says the chil­dren of­ten mo­bi­lize their fundrais­ing ef­forts on so­cial me­dia plat­forms and “when you see the friends and fam­i­lies of ev­ery third grader in a school, it is amaz­ing how much it can add up.” Fur­ther­more, they are an in­spi­ra­tion to shel­ter staff. “It keeps us re­ju­ve­nated in the face of over­whelm­ing odds,” he says.

Youth groups con­tact the Wash­ing­ton Area Hu­mane So­ci­ety on a daily ba­sis, says vol­un­teer and event co­or­di­na­tor Laura Fine. “It is heart­warm­ing to see their ex­cite­ment when they bring their items and mon­e­tary do­na­tions for the an­i­mals,” she says. The chil­dren raise be­tween $1,000 and $2,000 per year, but work­ing with youth groups is more about ed­u­ca­tion, the hu­mane care and treat­ment of an­i­mals, and up­hold­ing the shel­ter’s com­mu­nity pres­ence than it is about rais­ing money, Laura says.

The Toronto Hu­mane So­ci­ety also sees a large num­ber of fundrais­ing ef­forts by chil­dren.

So much so that the or­ga­ni­za­tion launched a pop­u­lar Hu­mane Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gram in 2016. The shel­ter does not re­ceive any govern­ment fund­ing and re­lies solely on the kind­ness of cor­po­rate and in­di­vid­ual donors, so the team is es­pe­cially ap­pre­cia­tive of the chil­dren who sup­port them.

“Ev­ery child who sup­ports us and talks about us with their friends is a step in the right di­rec­tion,” says Te­gan Buck­ing­ham, man­ager of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “Most im­por­tantly, it helps to in­still com­pas­sion to­ward an­i­mals and re­spon­si­ble pet own­er­ship.”

In or­der to pro­vide its wide range of pro­grams and ser­vices for an­i­mals in need, the BC SPCA needed to raise more than $36 mil­lion in com­mu­nity do­na­tions in 2017. To meet this goal, they need sup­port from all sec­tors, even the re­ally young. Youth 13 and un­der con­trib­uted an amaz­ing $50,000 to $100,000 an­nu­ally, says Lorie Chortyk, gen­eral man­ager of com­mu­nity re­la­tions.

“Of­ten, chil­dren are mo­ti­vated to give when they see or hear about an an­i­mal cru­elty case in the news, and some just love an­i­mals and want to help in any way they can,” says Lorie. “It is cer­tainly be­com­ing more and more com­mon and a real sign of hope for our world that kids care and demon­strate such al­tru­ism.”

“Any time we can en­cour­age and rec­og­nize self­less be­hav­iours, it helps chil­dren feel good about help­ing,” Lorie con­tin­ues. “This will most likely cre­ate a life­long ad­vo­cate for those more vul­ner­a­ble. Youth feel very strongly about an­i­mals and our re­la­tion­ships with them. They want to help end an­i­mal suf­fer­ing and they do so by speak­ing up for an­i­mal in­jus­tices and in many cases, they fundraise or give gifts for the an­i­mals—food, toys, bed­ding. It is amaz­ing to see be­cause a gen­er­a­tion ago this was less com­mon.”

Mu­rad Kir­dar, busi­ness and pub­lic re­la­tions of­fi­cer at the Santa Fe An­i­mal Shel­ter and Hu­mane So­ci­ety, agrees that his or­ga­ni­za­tion is see­ing a rel­a­tively new, pos­i­tive trend among youth con­tribut­ing to the shel­ter in mean­ing­ful ways. “Sev­eral years ago, the prac­tice was quite rare with only a hand­ful of youth tak­ing the ini­tia­tive to raise funds for our home­less an­i­mals ac­tively,” Mu­rad says. “How­ever, it is now com­mon for our shel­ter to re­ceive two to three do­na­tions per month from this group,” he says, cit­ing a greater aware­ness among youth.

And it’s not just younger kids that are giv­ing, says Danna Hutchi­son, a board mem­ber and the cur­rent trea­surer of the Hu­mane So­ci­ety of North­ern Utah. “Col­lege-aged kids also come to our sanc­tu­ary to do group projects ev­ery se­mes­ter.” In­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed fam­ily coun­sel­lor, speaker, and au­thor Alyson Schafer agrees that fundrais­ers or­ga­nized by young peo­ple are be­com­ing more pop­u­lar. “I think peo­ple are much more aware of their abil­ity and agency to do good,” Alyson says. “It’s much higher on peo­ple’s radar than in the past, and peo­ple are bet­ter at in­volv­ing their chil­dren in child-friendly ways. I think it’s fan­tas­tic, I think it has the abil­ity to mod­er­ate what has be­come a big prob­lem—which is en­ti­tle­ment and in­di­vid­u­al­ism—in our so­ci­ety.”

Alyson be­lieves that hu­man be­ings are wired with the in­nate de­sire to care for their fel­low man. Re­search has shown that the de­sire to help and give is so fun­da­men­tal to hu­mans that without it, peo­ple would start feel­ing lonely. “When we con­trib­ute, that’s how we feel con­nected and feel good. Whether you make a con­tri­bu­tion to a char­ity, help a bird fallen from its nest or do­nate time to walk an­i­mals, it’s all got the same ef­fect—it makes you feel val­ued, im­por­tant and con­nected,” says Alyson.

Par­ents can help their kids by find­ing out what the child’s nat­u­ral in­cli­na­tions are. “For many chil­dren, that’s an­i­mals and pets,” says Alyson. Re­mem­ber that kids like to do things. “For chil­dren, money is very ab­stract, but col­lect­ing do­na­tions and drop­ping them off is more con­crete. They get feed­back from the wag­ging of a tail or a smile of a vol­un­teer.”

Six-year-old Izzy Caverly re­ceived heart­felt thanks from some furry friends af­ter col­lect­ing do­na­tions for Sit With Me, a lo­cal dog res­cue at her sixth birth­day party in May.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion held spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for the Ot­tawa res­i­dent, who had adopted her two-year-old Boxer-Dane mix, Mavis, from Sit With Me.

She de­cided to forgo presents in favour of mak­ing a do­na­tion of about $200, but re­ceived some­thing far more valu­able.

“She learned about the joy of giv­ing,” says her fa­ther, Luther Caverly. “I think teach­ing chil­dren young about the value of giv­ing helps them grow into more thought­ful adults that hope­fully fos­ters a more car­ing, giv­ing cul­ture, which I think cre­ates stronger com­mu­ni­ties,” he says.

“I love an­i­mals be­cause they are an im­por­tant part of our

world,” says eight-year-old Nathan La­lande. He was only six when he do­nated his al­lowance and col­lected do­na­tions on his birth­day for Sit With Me; at seven, he col­lected funds on his birth­day for Adopt Me Cat. “When I see an an­i­mal that's been hurt, I want to help them. It makes me feel happy know­ing they are be­ing taken care of.”

The de­mands placed upon th­ese res­cues and agen­cies are im­mense, says Nathan’s mother, Ch­eryl Gandier. “I feel it is im­per­a­tive for kids to learn to give to those in need, to be more civic-minded and grate­ful for what they have.”

“It is so im­por­tant to de­velop th­ese kinds of qual­i­ties in chil­dren, be­cause to­day peo­ple are so fo­cused on teach­ing the young ones about sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, busi­ness, etc.,” says Diana. Th­ese things are im­por­tant too, she says, but “should take a sec­ond place to things like shar­ing, car­ing, be­ing kind, and re­spect­ful. If we all take care of each other, we could have a bet­ter world and a bet­ter and hap­pier life for our chil­dren.”

Giv­ing re­ally does start at home and it be­comes a part of fam­ily cul­ture if you do it prop­erly, says Alyson.

Par­ents can start teach­ing their kids about giv­ing from a preschool age.

Stud­ies have shown that “kids who gave help in their fam­i­lies in var­i­ous ways were more al­tru­is­tic to­ward oth­ers out­side the fam­ily,” says Dr. Thomas Lick­ona, an Amer­i­can de­vel­op­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist and pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion whose eight books on char­ac­ter ed­u­ca­tion in­clude Ed­u­cat­ing for Char­ac­ter, Rais­ing Good

Chil­dren and most re­cently, How to Raise Kind Kids.

In How to Raise Kind Kids, Thomas also cites an­other study show­ing that kids who have chores for which they aren’t paid de­velop a greater con­cern for oth­ers.

“Chil­dren learn so much from mod­el­ling that even a two-yearold can watch you col­lect clothes to drop off in a do­na­tion bin,” Alyson says. Slightly older chil­dren can help place do­na­tions in a bag and help ac­com­pany par­ents to drop off do­na­tions.

“It’s a small ges­ture, but it plants a small seed that will con­tinue to grow.”

When I see an an­i­mal that's been hurt, I want to help them. It makes me feel happy know­ing they are be­ing taken care of.— eight-year-old Nathan La­lande

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