Strut Your Mutt young participants

Young people share why they love Best Friends' biggest fundraiser -- Strut Your Mutt -- which raises money for homeless animals.
By Christina Green

What’s so easy that a four-year-old can do it? Helping homeless pets. And a four-year-old, along with many other youthful participants, did just that all across the country this fall during Best Friends’ Strut Your Mutt, presented by BOBS for Dogs from Skechers.

Sure, Strut Your Mutt offers great quality time to spend with the kids and the family dog. There are the silly contests, shopping at vendors and fun activities for entertainment. But the fundraising leading up to the events is family friendly, too, as so many youngsters proved this year.

We thought it would be fun to introduce a few of the younger crowd who made this year’s events so special.

A mini-Minnesotan force for homeless pets

Quinn, the top youth fundraiser for the Twin Cities Strut Your MuttThat four-year-old helping homeless dogs and cats? That’s Quinn, the top youth fundraiser for the Twin Cities Strut Your Mutt. Both she and her six-year-old brother Will raised money for Good Karma Animal Rescue in Minnesota.

While the family is no stranger to animal rescue — having fostered 22 dogs over the last two-and-a-half years and having taken part in last year’s Twin Cities Strut Your Mutt — raising money this year was all Quinn’s idea. Her inspiration? “I like playing with dogs, all dogs,” she says, “because dogs are nice to people.”

With help from Jennie, her mom, Quinn took that pure, simple love for canine companions and turned it into fundraising gold by meeting, and then raising, her fundraising goal along the way.

The Strut Your Mutt event itself must have felt like heaven to this dog lover, since more than 400 dogs attended the festival. “We had such a fun time at the event and really appreciate all of the work and coordination of Best Friends,” says Jennie.

For Quinn, the highlights from the day were “face-painting and getting my trophy.” Those in attendance might agree that one of their top highlights was watching this pint-size powerhouse with a heart for dogs walk up and accept that trophy.

Baking to raise money in Maryland

Drew and Taylor plan to continue donating to help homeless pets with their bakingA sweet tooth might not be great for your waistline, but two teenage sisters from Maryland found it excellent for helping homeless pets. They also found that it helped keep the family peace.

Drew and Taylor, who are 14 and 16 years old, say they’ve pretty much been baking with their grandmother ever since they could. As they got a little older, they started to argue over who got to bake for the different holidays and special family occasions.

“Someone jokingly suggested we should start our own bakery,” says Drew, but the girls didn’t laugh. They started JujuB Bakery. And while advertising has been little more than word-of-mouth among people who know them, the young bakers say that in the past year alone they’ve made more than 200 desserts, with a whopping total of 34 pies ordered just for the Thanksgiving holiday.

You might say the sweetest part of their confections, however, is that they benefit homeless pets. The family first learned about Best Friends when a friend made a donation in honor of a beloved pet who passed away. They’ve made regular donations ever since and even made the journey to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary to volunteer.

But as soon as the announcement came out about Strut Your Mutt coming to the D.C. metro area, the young ladies decided this was their chance to make a difference on their own.

“All of JujuB’s proceeds from December 19 until the event in October went to our Strut Your Mutt goal,” says Taylor. In fact, they won top youth prize for having raised the most money among young people at the D.C. metro event, which they say was a blast.

“My favorite part was watching all of the people and dogs pour through the starting gate of the walk,” says Taylor. “I also loved seeing the adoptable dogs dressed up like super heroes at the rescue runway fashion show.”

Drew liked the post-walk events, when people and their pooped pooches relaxed around the main stage area to take in the entertainment. “We got to walk around handing out dog treats,” she says, so, needless to say, they were pretty popular among the four-legged participants.

Drew and Taylor plan to continue donating to help homeless pets with their baking for as long as they can. And participating in Strut Your Mutt each year is the icing on the cake.

New York girl with big dreams

She’s an aspiring actress who’s already a lifelong philanthropist. Not bad for a 12-year-old.

When Emma (shown above in the main photo) visited Best Friends Animal Sanctuary with her family this past summer, it forever changed her heart. Well, actually, one specific dog did.

“Nothing in my life has touched my heart more than getting to connect with a dog there. His name is Landon and he has hepatitis and irritable bowel disease,” she wrote in an email to Best Friends. “The medicines used to treat his illnesses are very expensive, and due to financial reasons, we were sadly not able to adopt him. But with Strut Your Mutt, I feel that I can give back to Best Friends (and Landon) a small portion of the happiness that they have given me.”

For Emma, it was a defining moment in her young life. She wrote: “I think the most important lesson that Best Friends has taught me is that there are so many good people in the world, and I aspire to be one of those people.”

After that, Emma jumped at the chance to help raise money through Strut Your Mutt in New York City. She raised funds by donating her own money and asking friends and family for their support. She also donated items for a community craft sale and flea market, using the proceeds for her goal.

It wasn’t easy, but she was surprised at how good it actually felt to donate. “I felt that all of my hard work had paid off in a way that could leave a truly positive impact on the lives of so many animals,” she wrote.

Of course, with so many good things happening at one time, things are bound to overlap. Unfortunately, Emma couldn’t actually participate in the Strut Your Mutt walk, but it was because she landed an acting role in the local theater production and the first day of rehearsal was the same day and time as Strut Your Mutt. Her mom attended and sent her pictures and updates all day. Back at Best Friends, Landon couldn’t be more proud.  

Congratulations and thank you to all of the youth participants who helped make this year’s Strut Your Mutt so successful.

Want to keep the good news coming? Here’s what you can do:

Photos courtesy of Linda Behrens, Jennie Zafft, and Best Friends


Strut Your Mutt