Monday, February 7, 2011
Fourth-Grader Raising Money, Supplies For Rescued Pit Bulls
For some kids, watching television can be productive.
Tori Allender is one of those kids.
The 10-year-old Park Hills Elementary School student loves watching shows about rescuing animals.
And one of her favorite shows, Animal Planet's "Pit Bulls and Parolees," recently led Tori to start a fundraising project for a Maryland organization that rescues abused and neglected pit bulls.
The show "Pit Bulls and Parolees" gives ex-convicts a chance to mainstream back into society through work at a pit bull rescue center in California. And as she watched episode after episode - marathons at times - Tori saw not only the abuse and neglect that the pit bulls suffered but also the turnaround that came from rehabilitation and adoption.
Even after she turned the television off, the dogs stayed on her mind.
"I knew they were abused," she said. "And it's just sad that people abuse dogs."
So she started looking for ways to help the organizations taking in dogs and giving them better homes.
Her school guidance counselor, Erin Hanson, eventually came across an organization called Jasmine's House, which rescues and rehabilitates pit bulls and keeps the dogs in foster homes as they await adoption.
The organization was started by Catalina Stirling in memory of Jasmine - one of NFL player Michael Vick's former fighting pit bulls that was placed in Stirling's care after Vick's arrest.
Tori recently went around to every fourth-grade classroom at her school to talk about Jasmine's House and see if kids would be willing to provide some of the items that the organization needs. Hanson traveled to the fifth-grade classrooms to gather additional donations.
As Tori talked about the dog food, treats and dog beds and other supplies piled up in the school's hallway on Thursday, she said the response was great.
"I feel good about it because they're not going to need those items now," she said.
The project also raised about $160 for the organization.
But the best part came later on Thursday, when Tori got to meet - and pet - one of the dogs that she is helping.
Both dogs instantly took to Tori as she dropped to her knees to play with them. With tails wagging back and forth, they licked her face and turned around to give her more back to scratch.
Though Tori does not have dogs of her own, she's spent time with her uncle's pit bull and boxer mix. Despite his name, Diesel is "the sweetest dog," she said.
Dogs like Diesel, Marvin and Minnie may seem like exceptions to their breed, but Tori doesn't think so. People tend to think of pit bulls as aggressive and dangerous, "since they hear scary stories about them being bad and attacking people," she said.
But from what she's learned through her fundraising project and her own experience, Tori believes that with the right training and handling, any pit bull can turn out like Diesel, Marvin and Minnie.
She hopes to be a part of the process someday and says she would like to rescue pit bulls once she is older.
It would be a step up from watching it happen on television, she said.
But in the meantime, there is still work for her.
"I want to keep helping the rescue group," Tori said, "and keep raising money for pit bull rescues."
For more information about Jasmine's House, visit www.jasmineshouse.org/ or their Facebook page.
By Heather Faulhefer
Photos by Brett Berwager