In the fall of 2000, Cody Freas founded a nonprofit agency called Operation Paws. Inspired by his love of animals and his commitment to teaching children community service, Cody developed and implemented a fundraising project to benefit the homeless animals of Operation Kindness.
After volunteering for the National Honor Society and learning the value of community service, he began to realize that are many young children that never have the opportunity to contribute to their community. Cody started Operation Paws to bring children and animals together. His idea was to offer elementary school children the opportunity to sponsor or “adopt” an animal at Operation Kindness for a $12 donation. Every child received a personalized adoption certificate and a photo of the dog or cat that they “adopted.” The children also receive a goodie bag which contains a bio specifically about their animal, dog bone candy, a dog or cat bracelet and an invitation to the Adopt-A-Paws Parents party at the shelter. They are also listed on an Honor Roll. By giving something back to the children for their participation in Operation Paws, Cody hoped that he could emphasize the value of community service at an early age.
Cody had to convince many schoolteachers and administrators that he was committed to this project. One teacher told him that she believed he could never make the project work and gave him a list of volunteer opportunities that would be better. He faced resistance, but persevered. He created displays, photographed the animals, negotiated prices for his supplies, and marketed the final product to schools. Cody also recruited members of the National Honor Society and the Environmental Club at his high school to volunteer to help make the bags. In all, he has 100 volunteers working with him on this project.
Operation Paws has been a great success. Cody teaches many children about community service and helping others. Eleven Plano schools have participated in his project thus far. He has raised approximately $10,000 for animals. In addition, Cody has raised community awareness of the shelter and the plight of homeless animals. His organization donated more than 200 stuffed animals to the Plano Children’s Medical Center for children without medical insurance.
President Bush sent pictures of his pets, Spot and Barney, to be Operation Paws mascots. Cody has also just recently been chosen one of three international winners for the “Yes, I Can! Foundation for Exceptional Children Award for his service to young people and community service and will be honored in Seattle, Washington in April. He was recognized as the Dallas Youth Volunteer of the Year in 2003.
Cody is a true inspiration. Although he is learning disabled, he does not allow that to be a deterrent to him. He is truly passionate about his project and is a role model for volunteers of all ages.