Does Your Pet Know a 'Kind' Kid?
Annie Lee Vankleeck, 2009 Children's Grand Prize Winner of the Be Kind to Animals Kid Contest, with blankets for shelter dogs who "snuggle with them, and if they’re cold, they probably put them on.” (Photo Courtesy of American Humane Association)
NEW YORK - Calling all "kind" kids: now is your chance to shine. The search is on for America's best young friend to animals in the "Be Kind to Animals Kid Contest," announced by the American Humane Association earlier this month.
The contest, which is accepting nominees through April 15, is part of the association's annual "Be Kind to Animals Week," celebrating its 95th anniversary as the oldest animal-related event in the nation. The initiative fosters humane principles by encouraging adults and children to maintain compassionate attitudes toward animals.
"So far, we are receiving a lot of entrants from the Southern states and the East Coast - that’s very unofficial data - but there is no one region that 'dominates,' " said Heather Black, spokeswoman for the American Humane Association. "We are sure to receive entries from all over by the time the contest ends. Two years ago, our teen winner was from Hawaii."
While nominees can range from ages 6 to 17, the AHA divides the contest into two age groups: "Children: 6 to 12," and "Teens: 13 to 17," allowing for two "grand prize" winners. Each grand prize winner receives $1,000 and two runner-ups receive $500. Last year, Annie Lee Vankleeck, who was six years old at the time of nomination, was honored as the grand prize winner of the children's division.
Annie, the daughter of Sharon McInerney and Ralph Vankleeck of Shokan, NY, wanted to do something to help animals. She learned that local shelters needed gently used blankets. Right away, Annie set out to fill that need by collecting blankets at the town's annual festival. She didn't stop there, though. Annie went to yard sales, persuading people to donate their blankets and even buying them when sellers would not relent.
Annie's efforts extended to her peers, as she collected blankets and towels at her school. And in a truly inspiring sacrifice for a child of her age, she asked guests at her seventh birthday party to bring blankets for "the doggies" instead of gifts.
Annie embodies the mission of the award, which recognizes humane leaders of tomorrow by honoring kids who make a difference for animals today. To date, the contest has received 27 entrants for this month, but Black is hoping that this year, more than 150 kind kids will be nominated. This goal would signal an uptick over last year's nominees, who totaled almost 100.
One of those nominees was 13-year-old Abbie Jungers, who won $1,000 as the teen grand prize winner. Her devotion to the St. Charles Humane Society in her hometown of St. Peters, Missouri set her above the rest. During more than 700 volunteer hours logged at the shelter, Abbie, the daughter of Michelle Jungers, has done anything and everything that is needed - even the least desirable of tasks.
While these two young girls are setting the tone for this year's nominees, the American Humane Association emphasizes that anyone can be kind to animals in a few simple ways.
1. Volunteer at a local animal shelter, or support a shelter financially.
2. Get informed about policies and legislation that impact the animals in your community and nationwide.
3. Speak out for animals and register to receive legislative Action Alerts from American Humane.
Headquartered in Denver, this contest is a special event for the organization, which is the only national organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals. The winners will be announced during the association's annual Be Kind to Animals Week, May 2-8, 2010.
Founded in 1877, the American Humane Association - through a network of child and animal protection agencies and individuals - develops everything from policies to training programs for protecting children and animals from abuse, neglect and exploitation. One of the non-profit's best known initiatives is the "No Animals Were Harmed" end-credit disclaimer on film and TV productions.
For more information, follow the American Humane Association on Twitter @AmericanHumane or visit AmericanHumane.org for complete contest rules.
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