A very special volunteer

Ten-year-old Ariana lives in Long Beach, New York, which was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The flooding was so severe in her area that a few of Ariana’s friends are still living in temporary housing after their homes were destroyed by the storm. So the girls understand how wonderful it is to get a little help – and how good it feels to help others.

That’s why when Ariana got an email from Best Friends CEO Gregory Castle about his upcoming 170-mile fundraising run in the Grand to Grand Ultra, she wanted to do something significant to help the animals, too. And her friends were right behind her.

Running most of the way

Ariana with Best Friends CEO and founder, Gregory CastleAriana knew that 170 miles would be too far to walk; 170 blocks was even too far for the then-nine-year-old. So she and her mother, Kaja, got creative and organized a 1.7-mile walkathon in their neighborhood to benefit Best Friends. Ariana designed fliers to hand out to friends, family members and classmates, and Kaja got her coworkers involved.

Then, on the eve of the walkathon, Ariana and nine other girls gathered in her home to design T-shirts for their walk. They even made one for her rescued pit bull terrier, Brooke. The girls were so excited when the day of the walkathon dawned, bright and beautiful, that they ran most of the way.

A special presentation

But the fun didn’t end after they’d covered the 1.7 miles. Ariana had known about Best Friends for years. National Geographic’s “DogTown” was her favorite show. She had visited the Sanctuary twice before, and was planning another trip that same month, during her school break. Not only would she be volunteering in Cat World, Dogtown and at the Bunny House, but she would also get a chance to present her donation at one of the Thursday lunches (when Best Friends founders and other staff members gather to tell stories about current events and goings-on at the Sanctuary).

Pepsi is available for adoption at Best FriendsOn the day of Ariana’s visit, Gregory Castle jogged into the lunchroom, decked out in his running clothes, to accept her donation. Her goal had been to raise $170, but she managed to raise an astounding $1,170. And she and her mom are already dreaming big for next year, thinking of what else they can do with the number 170 – like recruit 170 friends and family members to participate in the walkathon.

A birthday sleepover

In the meantime, however, Ariana is enjoying some downtime. The Friday of her visit to the Sanctuary also happened to be her 10th birthday, and she celebrated by taking a popular sleepover dog named Pepsi back to the Best Friends cottages with her. He proved to be the perfect gentleman, and the perfect birthday companion for this very special volunteer.

Get Involved

Learn more about volunteering at the Sanctuary. Click here.

Learn more about Best Friends CEO Gregory Castle’s 170-mile run. Click here.

Watch Ariana’s video. //vimeo.com/91287584

Photos by Molly Wald