Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Lieu of Gifts

When I ask eight-year-old Aidan Hall if he has any pets, he gives me a businesslike nod. “We have four dogs, two cats, four turtles, two tortoises, a Quaker parrot, three hermit crabs, and Biscuit.” (Biscuit is a hamster the family recently adopted from HSCC.)  When I look at Aidan’s mom in surprise, she explains, “I used to work for Dr. Metz at Shelburne Vet.”

Aidan visiting the cats at HSCC
I ask Aidan if he has a favorite animal and he says no—he likes them all. I ask him if he helps care for the animals at home. Aidan gives another serious nod. I expect him to tell me that he feeds them dinner or walks the dogs with his mom. Instead, he surprises me again with, “Buddy the parrot used to be quite cage-aggressive. I’ve been working with him—petting his head through the cage and feeding him.” Aidan demonstrates how he strokes Buddy’s head. “Now, I can put my hand in the cage and he doesn’t bite.” Training an animal out of cage aggression—that’s a complicated challenge for a professional trainer! Let alone the fact that this eight-year-old boy is even familiar with the term “cage-aggression.” 

It may come as no surprise that HSCC ranks among Aidan’s favorite causes. However, the fact that a child would forgo gifts for his own birthday to benefit an organization—that’s yet another remarkable feat for this young man. This summer, Aidan asked his birthday guests to donate to HSCC rather than buy him presents. He ended up collecting $200 for the shelter, plus cat toys and dog biscuits. I asked Aidan why he’d choose to give up gifts on his birthday. “I have bazillions of toys in my room,” he explains. “Probably more than 50. I don’t need more.” 

Aidan has demonstrated this philanthropic bent since turning six. Two years ago he selected Outreach for Earth Stewardship as the beneficiary nonprofit, and last year he chose Hunger Free Vermont. He picked HSCC this year because of his obvious love for animals. 

I asked him how he felt turning in his donations, and he says, “proud.”  “Aidan’s never been ‘stuff-oriented,’” his mom says, equally proud. 

Another one of our long-time supporters can relate to Aidan’s lack of interest in “stuff.”

"None of us need more stuff,” says Emily Morrow, a former kitten foster mom and HSCC adopter. “Stuff is more of a problem than a benefit. Giving in tangible ways gives me a more tangible sense of happiness." Emily celebrated her 60th birthday this year, and also asked her guests to donate to HSCC in lieu of buying her gifts. 

Emily explains that she chose HSCC as the beneficiary of her birthday honor because it makes her sad to think of animals not being cared for. In addition to adopting animals from our shelter and fostering kittens, Emily felt this was an effective and meaningful way for her to help.

"It made me feel great to do this," Emily says. She had gotten the idea from young couples she knew who asked their wedding guests to donate to charities rather than give gifts. 

We have an example of that, too! One of our board members, Kyla Sternlieb, was recently married. She and her husband Bruce Lisman asked their friends to donate to HSCC in honor of their marriage. Well, we never could have predicted this, but that simple ask raised nearly $10,000 for our shelter!

Because we rely almost entirely (88%) upon donations from individuals to keep our shelter and programs running, we are enormously grateful when our community gets creative in finding ways to support our mission. 

Aidan's donation jar. Notice his rendering of our logo at the top!

Thanks to EVERYONE who’s set personal gain aside to benefit homeless animals--as well as those who have made a donation in someone's honor!

Because really, isn't a companion animal's love the greatest gift of all?

Booey (formerly Fred), adopted this summer, with new best friend Emma.

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