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Column: The children lead the way
Andrea Walker.jpg
Andrea Walker
Olivia and Tristin
Olivia Diller, 12 (left), and Tristin Ware, 10, are two of five friends, including Tristin’s 13-year-old brother, Byer, who are helping spread the idea, through deeds and words, to ‘adopt, not shop’ when it comes to choosing new pets. - photo by Andrea Walker

Making a difference doesn’t necessarily mean doing something that is going to change the world, but it does mean doing something that will have a positive impact on someone’s life or in this case, on the life of an animal. Animals that are abandoned or neglected or wind up in shelters and foster homes through no fault of their own, have no voice and depend on all of us to be their voice. Children seem to understand this from an early age, and for a group of Kershaw County kids, with a little encouragement and support from their parents, it has become a part of their everyday routine. For these kids, summertime is no exception.

Thirteen-year-old Byer Ware; his 10-year-old sister, Tristin; their cousin Mattalyn Shirey; and friends Olivia Diller and Emily Turowsky all share a love for helping animals. While it may not be unique to see kids giving back in our community in some way, it is always inspiring to see what it is that makes them want to help. It certainly gives me hope for the future of animal welfare and I think when you read how these kids in Kershaw County help animals in need, hopefully you’ll be encouraged as well.

For Byer and Tristan, almost every day finds them at the shelter walking dogs, helping to take care of their foster dog, or riding with their mom, Rhonda, to transport a dog. They have even made slime and sold it as a way to raise funds to help dogs in foster care. Both Byer and Tristin have also had birthday parties and asked their friends for charitable donations to animals in lieu of birthday presents. The kids already get plenty of gifts from relatives and, according to Byer, “Giving to a charity teaches compassion and an understanding that everyone can make a difference.”

Twelve year-old Olivia may be young but she has a sweet, gentle soul that is wise beyond her years. Olivia believes in educating others in ways that they can help animals in need and teaching them that, just like us, animals have feelings too. She spreads the word to friends by letting them know that things like volunteering at their local shelter, fostering a dog in need, and adopting a rescue dog, can all make a big difference. But Olivia also spreads the word in bigger ways. She has done presentations at school about abandoned and neglected animals; the huge need for spaying and neutering, emphasizing why people need to “adopt not shop.”

“All dogs should have a home like mine,” is what 10-year-old Emily believes and she works to make sure that they do. Emily and her parents have four dogs of their own and at any given time take in foster dogs as well. From helping with feeding and cleaning, to just playing outside with the pups, Emily plays a role in their care and socialization. Even though she may become attached to her foster dogs, when it’s time for them to leave, she knows that she has helped save them and is making a space for another dog that needs her help.

More than $250 dollars is what 10-year-old Mattalyn made for Fostering Foster just by collecting used shoes. Through partnering with Shoes with Heart, Mattalyn not only helped the dogs, she also gave many of us a responsible way to dispose of used shoes and helped micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries, all at the same time. Mattalyn has also used her platform as Young Miss Kershaw County to help promote events at the Theil-Meyer Adoption Center, where she also spends time volunteering to walk dogs. And if all that is not enough, it’s not unusual for Mattalyn and her parents to have a couple of foster puppies hanging out at their house from time to time.

Feeling inspired by Byer, Tristin, Mattalyn, Olivia and Emily, and want your kids to become involved? Talk to them about their passion and contact a local charity to ask for volunteer opportunities for kids or to make a donation. Because it’s just as the song says, I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.