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Humane Society of Southern Arizona: Build-A-Bear Youth Humane Education Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

Through the generous grant awarded to the HSSA by the Petfinder Foundation and Build-a-Bear Workshop, the Education Department was able to achieve the following:

1. The summer-camp facility/foster room was updated and made into a safer area for children and for fosters to be housed in. A sink was also added in this room to promote proper hygiene but also to facilitate the cleaning of animal enclosures, bowls, toys etc. Previous to this, all children attending camps had to go outside of the camp facility to wash their hands and clean pet supplies in bathrooms located outside of the building.

2. All new enclosures/cages were purchased for our Education Ambassador snakes and rats used not only in camps but in most children’s events and school visits, as well as new enclosures for all animals fostered during summer camp that children socialize and care for during our seven weeks of camp. These include three three-tiered pens for kittens and six spacious cages for rabbits, guinea pigs and smaller pets. These proved to be very useful and safer, as the previously used cages were always old, donated cages with parts missing. These were also much easier to clean and take apart.

3. Four large play pens were purchased that we were able to connect together and make two large kitten-socialization enclosures for children working with kittens. Prior to this we used four 8-ft. tables on their sides to create a square area for the kids to socialize kittens. These were always sliding around and would leave areas where the kittens could escape. Additionally, the new cages made moving around the facility much easier as the kids, staff and volunteers didn’t have to avoid tripping over the legs of the tables.

4. We were able to purchase and update all of our outdated multimedia equipment. We purchased a new portable P.A. system, a small portable projector, one laptop, five iPads for kids to work on in groups and on apps relating to pet ownership and bite safety.

5. We granted 13 summer-camp scholarships to children in DCS custody, children with incarcerated parents, children whose families were receiving government assistance or children from families needing some additional support in order to attend a program of this nature.

6. Our maintenance department was able to update/remodel the summer camps facility's animal room so that the room had more space for animal enclosures, a sink, metal storage cabinets, and metal shelving to make the area safer for the children cleaning cages and caring for animals as well as a better set-up to allow more animals to be housed.

7. We additionally purchased rubber matting for three areas. The camp facility's floor is all concrete, which is always a slip hazard when working with water and cleaning animal supplies. Mats were purchased for the area where the new sink was installed, by the water-cooler area where children refill their water bottles and fill foster animals' water bottles and bowls, and for the classroom floor space where children sit on the floor and play board games, watch educational videos, participate in animal yoga and more.

8. We additionally purchased a small refrigerator specifically to be used to hold all perishable foster animal foods. Since we promote healthy eating for children and pets, we purchase fresh produce weekly to feed the rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice and small pocket pets.

9. Our outdoor yards where children play during recess also got a bit of a makeover in that we purchased plastic Adirondack chairs, a picnic table with an umbrella and a large plastic toy bin to hold all balls, hula hoops and outdoor toys the children use at recess and during breaks.

10. The department was also able to purchase five life-size plush dogs to teach our campers about appropriate handling of dogs, bite safety, and how to hold pets, and these were additionally used to teach the importance of microchipping, ID tags, and licensing and some basic first aid and CPR.

11. We purchased books to grow our camp literacy program. After lunch and as an activity for younger children, our staff and volunteers read humane-education-themed books to children as a way to promote our animal-welfare message, calm children down after recess and also as part of our camps for children with trauma in which they read to our therapy dogs.

12. T-shirts have always been a hit with summer camps. Due to budgetary constraints, we have not been able to provide t-shirts since 2010. This summer we provided t-shirts to all campers, which not only promotes our camp and the HSSA, but we also included the logos of the Petfinder Foundation, Build-a-Bear Workshop and Tanline printing (which also sponsored a percentage of t-shirts). The t-shirts were all white with black logos and the campers were able to color all their shirts with fabric markers, making each one different and creative.

13. In order to enhance our lessons, we also purchased skull replicas to demonstrate the difference between dogs and cats and their distant ancestors. Skulls replicas where also purchased to show the difference between animal diets. These were used too in our Living with Urban Wildlife program as well as our dog and cat domestication programs. Along with this, we purchase some small native animal replicas to show the different native animals that live in our desert.

14. Some other items purchased were educational videos about cats and dogs and pet supplies including toys, food, enrichment items, and feeding bowls and bottles.

This grant was essential in taking not only our summer programs but all on-site children’s education programs to a new level in terms of being interactive, enriching and engaging. With all-new state-of-the-art multimedia equipment to convey and present our lessons, safer and more-enriching housing for summer-camp foster animals and safer and more-welcoming recreation and classroom areas, children attending all summer camps and all future hand-in-paw events, as well as our free school-based program, can now learn in a more hands-on manner and a more comfortable environment.

How many pets did this grant help?

The organization will never really be able to quantify the impact the grant had on animals in our community, as the grant was to promote and enhance children’s summer programs. For sure the supplies purchased helped the lives of 45 animals in our care during summer camps. This includes seven rats, three snakes, two guinea pigs, four rabbits, one hamster, four litters of kittens (26 kittens total), and two ferrets. Additionally, shelter dogs were walked to the camp facility by volunteers daily during morning dog-walking and taken to the play yards at the camp facility for children to spend time with, socialize and provide exercise to. Summer camps affected the lives of 178 child participants and their families. Of the animals fostered and cared for by campers during the summer, six of the animals were adopted by families with children attending camps. Much of the impact will be on how the child participants treat and care for their animals and advocate for animals in our community.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

Much of the impact is directly linked to children as opposed to animals, although several animals found their forever homes with summer camp participants’ families. Many of our campers come from backgrounds where the likelihood of neglect, cruelty, apathy and general mistreatment of animals is high. Many of our child participants come from homes where they have been exposed to traumatic events, including domestic violence, addiction, sexual and physical abuse, incarcerated parents and homes in which the children have been exposed to animal cruelty and neglect.

Participants are provided with tools to make sound and kind choices for animals in their care as minors, but also tools to make better decisions for pets in our community as they become adults. Children learned respect, proper handling, animal-cruelty prevention, respect for wild animals, bite safety and animal body language and the importance of spaying and neutering. One of the overarching themes is to promote critical thinking as well as kindness, compassion, empathy and stewardship. These messages and behaviors, when expressed and shown to animals, are more likely to then be carried over to peers and other individuals in their families and community.

One child who was particularly affected by our program and the support of Build-a-Bear and the Petfinder Foundation was a young lady who has been hospitalized for the last three years due to brain cancer. This child had recently relearned how to walk, talk and have fine motor skills again after surviving cancer and other serious medical conditions. She was reluctant to interact with other children after having been around medical professionals and adults for so long while recovering in the hospital.

Sarah had always had a love of animals, and our camp and animals offered her the opportunity to integrate with peers of her age. It became clear to staff, volunteers and her personal helper after her first day at camp that other camp participants noticed that she was having a hard time integrating into camp and being with peers. Campers started offering her support when walking from enclosure to enclosure, offering a helping hand when trying to sit on the floor to interact with foster animals, offering her water and cool cloths when her body temperature was too high and including and encouraging her in all activities.

It was clear that the children participating in our programs understood our lessons and were not only extending that care to the animals in our programs but also to their peers. It was heartwarming to see and not only made staff proud, but this was also shared with parents who were overcome with emotion that their children were extending their care to someone who needed a little extra support, compassion and empathy. Sarah has since had a positive transformation in her confidence levels and now attends all of the HSSA’s weekend children’s programs, making made numerous new friends.

This grant was helpful to Sarah in that it helped the HSSA provide a safer environment so that she could move around the facility without the concern of falling-over legs from tables, and with sturdy and sound enclosures for her to socialize with peers and animals in as well as sitting areas outside so that she could still participate in activities even when she needed to sit and rest.

Further Reading