Lifesaving gifts

Back-to-school time is here, and kids of every age are excited about what the year will bring. They grow up so fast; it seems like one year they're asking to see a pink flamingo for their birthday, and a few years later they're using their big day to fundraise on behalf of those animals in need. What?

It's true. Charlotte Dalton of Salt Lake City has always loved animals. As her mom, Katharine, shares, "Ever since Charlotte was two years old, she has had a special connection with animals. She has never been fearful of them and has always sought out their companionship. When we asked her what she wanted to do for her third birthday, she said she wanted to see a pink flamingo."

Everlasting memories

Last year, when the Daltons were on vacation in Southern Utah, they knew they wanted to visit the place their daughter would relish, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. They had a joyous time, and Charlotte especially loved Cat World, where she was able to socialize with the cats.

So it wasn't a total shock when this year Katharine asked Charlotte what she wanted do for her eighth birthday, and the tween responded that in lieu of gifts for herself, she wanted her guests to donate $5 that she would give to Best Friends.

"She's always had so much empathy, and while we weren't surprised that she wanted to help animals in need, we were surprised that she didn't want to keep any of it for herself. Her greatest gift was to be able to share the money to help make a difference for homeless pets," says Katharine.

The Daltons live a few minutes away from the new Best Friends Pet Adoption Center in Sugar House, and it was a momentous day when they brought the $100 donation over in person. "We shop over there all the time, and seeing the volunteers walking the dogs makes us so happy," smiles Katharine. "We see animals as an important part of the community, and the facility is beautiful. Charlotte had a great time there too. Getting to play with the cats made her day."

Young Aiden makes a donation to Best FriendsKatharine also shared that kids naturally want to help out, and it's important as parents and guardians to listen to what they are saying and encourage them to act on their instincts.

Aidan Allen turned nine years old in August, and he too sought donations for homeless pets, instead of presents for himself. His birthday party was also a fundraiser, and along with the $100 donation to Best Friends, Aidan dropped off a windfall of toys, treats and collars for the dogs and cats of the adoption center.

The money raised will go towards the lifesaving programs and events that are helping save more animals' lives in the Beehive State, such as the spay/neuter voucher program, trap/neuter/return resources, underwriting for multi-organization adoption events (such as the super pet adoptions), and more. Each dollar donated brings us closer to realizing a no-kill Utah, and it's the next generation of animal welfare advocates who are helping make a serious difference right now.

You can make a difference for a homeless pet right now too, no matter what your age. We have personal fundraising pages available online for folks who want to raise money for animals in need, be it for your birthday, wedding, or a marathon you're running. For more information, go to bestfriends.org/celebrate.

Photo by Sarah Ause Kichas