By Krista Johnson
Licensed Early Childhood Educator
Last year, the children in Creative Wonders Family Day Home were learning about how animals in our area prepare for winter.
They learned about squirrels foraging for food, Canada geese practicing their flight patterns to prepare for migration, and how bears hibernate. Then they asked about dogs and wondered how they prepare for the cold months ahead.
This sparked something in them as we talked about homeless dogs and cats and what would happen to them without food or shelter. I showed them the web site of Old MacDonald Rescue here in Ponoka, and Martine Huyssoon and her crew quickly became heroes in the eyes of those children. They wanted to be “Rescue Heroes” too and help save animals in need.
We discussed what we could do to help.
The excitement was contagious and the ideas flowed from them. We made dog biscuits, asked friends and family for donations of blankets, dog toys and food. The children made wrapping paper and wrapped Christmas presents for the dogs as well as made cards for them. We were able to drop off our collection just before Christmas and were greeted with puppy kisses at the door. This was such an empowering experience for these children that we just had to do it again. But this time we invited our community to be involved too.
We teamed up with other local child care centers that joined us in our collection and fundraising efforts.
We also implemented ways for children to engage in our community project in their Day Homes. Teaching about rescuing animals instills empathy, responsibility, kindness and respect. We have a dramatic play area set up as an animal shelter with a stuffed animal collection, leashes, dog bowls, blankets, kennels, vet supplies and grooming supplies.
The children made dog treats again this year to donate. In our library we have many books on homeless and rescued animals that we have been reading and talking about together. We were able to team up with the Ponoka Child Care Center and meet our ‘Special Guest’ Martine, owner and operator of Old MacDonald Rescue-Ponoka.
She shared her stories with the children about her rescue operation that has become her life’s passion. We received several generous donations from our community towards this project.
Twenty-five queen and king sized dog beds as well as 10 bags of food were donated to the shelter.
Many other donations have been dropped off by people in our community. We have two truckloads to deliver.
This year the children also wanted to host a bake sale with donation tins to raise funds towards medical expenses such as vaccinations, spay and neuter fees and towards injured dogs that require medical attention.
We have been successful with the donation tins at participating locations and raised $545.00. All funds and collected items will go directly to aid the rescued dogs at Old MacDonald Rescue-Ponoka to be delivered on Dec. 23, just in time for Christmas.
I am honored and humbled to be a part of this experience, to be able to facilitate this community project with the children. I wanted them to know that even the smallest members of our community can contribute their thoughts and ideas.