Haley Lynch, age 11, and her friend Katie Vahle, age 12, started a youth volunteer group called H & K’s Service Paws with the goals of providing service dogs free of charge to disabled youth and providing valuable information about service animals to their greater community.
Through their annual “Amanda’s Dog Festival” and various fundraising projects they provide children who are visually impaired or physically disabled with independence through the use of highly trained service dogs. Recipients of the service dogs have a wide variety of physical disabilities including muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders and more.
After they formed their volunteer organization, Haley and Katie, with proposals in hand and without an adult present, professionally approached businesses for sponsorship of their festival. They then contacted animal organizations and invited them to help develop an educational component of the festival. They set up educational demonstrations, including one using K9 Police drug dogs, advertised their festival using multiple forms of media and organized volunteers.
This past year “Amanda’s Dog Festival” raised $5,000 that was donated to KSDS, Inc., one of very few organizations across the nation to provide service dogs to children. The festival, with the help of several not-for-profit national animal organizations, also educated an estimated 1200 visitors on the invaluable benefits of service dogs.
Haley and Katie are exceptional young ladies. They are young girls who have learned the importance of giving back to the communities that help raise them. They are empathetic to the needs of others and are willing to spend many hours of their own childhood helping others. They have also inspired other young children to find their own ways to give. Two children launched their own additional volunteer projects at Amanda’s Dog Festival this past summer and one is now currently expanding and growing her own youth volunteer organization.