Teens from Re-Creation Retreat volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Volunteers from Re-Creation Retreat residential treatment center in Fredonia, Arizona, volunteer with the animals at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.
By Jennifer Hayes

Best Friends is known as a place of healing and sanctuary for homeless animals. However, it also offers those same benefits to humans every Monday, when the girls from Re-Creation Retreat in Fredonia, Arizona, volunteer at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Volunteers from residential treatment center

Re-Creation is a local residential treatment center that offers teenage girls the knowledge and skills to get their lives back on track. With service an important part of the program, groups of girls have been helping out at Best Friends since 2008.

“There are a lot of things we do in working with animals that are the same things we do working with people,” says Re-Creation owner and clinical director Randy Soderquist. “It’s an opportunity for our students to provide service, but also to learn more about themselves, make choices and hopefully be able to take that knowledge and information and help change the world.”

Working with the bunnies

The groups from Re-Creation provide valuable service every week. They rotate among the various animal care areas, helping with everything from building trails to crafting rabbit treats to cleaning up after parrots. These gals are there to work!

Girls from the Re-Creation Retreat residential treatment center feeding a rabbit lettuce at Best Friends Animal SanctuaryIt’s no surprise that their favorite part of the weekly experience is socializing with the animals. Kayla loves the rabbits. She calls herself a “rabbit whisperer” and enjoys distributing treats. But even the rabbit whisperer occasionally has to coax the bunnies to come over — like the time she had to wait several minutes for Rosemary to approach.  Her patience not only paid off with Rosemary, but it is also applicable in other areas of her life.

“The bunnies really helped me with my relationship with my mom,” says Kayla. “When I was trying to feed the bunnies that didn’t want to come to me, I had to remember that I think differently than they do and I have to be patient and allow them to come to me when they’re ready. And that applies to my mom, because we’ve had relationship problems in the past and I just have to be patient.”

Animals as teachers

Kayla’s not alone. Alish has also helped herself through her service to animals. “I’ve learned a lot about myself,” says Alish. “(Once) I was walking a really big dog and was pretty intimidated by him. But he ended up being really sweet. I thought sometimes people are like that too. Sometimes they act and look tough, but really the outside doesn’t count. It’s really the inside, and once you get to know them, it’s usually a totally different kind of perspective.”

Every week the girls, while working with the animals, discover more about themselves and their relationships with others. And they also have learned a great deal about the plight of homeless animals. Kayla already has plans to volunteer for a local dog shelter when she returns home and Alish wants to add a four-legged friend to her family.

“I realize there are so many other animals out there who need a loving home,” says Alish. “Since (volunteering at) Best Friends, I’m so motivated to adopt from a shelter. I really want to share my love.”

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Photos by Sarah Ause-Kichas

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