Seventeen-year-old Madeline Phuong has been bringing animals to life through her watercolor paintings, from a curious turtle swimming in the ocean’s various shades of blue to a hungry parrot eating bright red berries. But she’s also helping real animals stay alive and cared for with her organization, A Second Chance, through which she sells her artwork to fund local animal shelters and nonprofits in her town of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Madeline has loved creating art since her days in third-grade art class, but her love for animals started even earlier at age 7 when her family adopted their first dog, a poodle named Roxie.
“Roxie sparked my passion for animals,” Madeline said. “She actually was given up because the family could no longer afford to keep her. That moment really opened my eyes to realize that caring for pets can take a toll financially. I really wanted to make sure other families in my area did not have to experience that.”
So in 2018, with her art skills drastically improved and her heart for animals bigger than ever, Madeline started her business, A Second Chance. She printed her artwork on greeting cards, prints and other products and began selling them to friends and family. Then she moved on to selling them at farmers markets and artist fairs around town. Her prints of a green sea turtle and a robin’s nest quickly became a crowd favorite.
“Her art is beautiful,” said Terry Doran, founder of the RiverDrums festival, where Madeline has sold her art.
“But using her art to form A Second Chance and donating the proceeds to animal shelters, that’s what makes it phenomenal,” Terry added. “She’s using her talent to help others and that’s what society should be about.”
Despite selling each card for a reasonable price of $2.50 to $3.50, Madeline has been able to raise over $13,000 so far. Her first set of donations went to helping two animal rescue organizations run vaccine clinics, allowing more than 355 cats and dogs get vaccinated for free. She’s also donated to Humane Fort Wayne’s Pet Promises program, which provides in-home pet care services to seniors or those with disabilities who may have trouble getting to an animal hospital on their own.
“It’s really gratifying to see the impact that the funds I donate can have,” Madeline said. “Especially through the matching donation campaigns, I see how generous and giving other people are, and I want to reflect that, encourage that and spread that.”
In 2021, Madeline painted her biggest piece of artwork yet when she was asked to be one of 25 artists to paint a giant fiberglass statue that also doubles as a bench, as part of Humane Fort Wayne’s LoveSeats public art project. With Madeline’s participation, the campaign raised more than $120,000, allowing Humane Fort Wayne to save even more animals and find them forever homes.
In a year, Madeline will be heading off to college, where she’ll undoubtedly be busy with classes and homework. But she said she’s determined to keep A Second Chance going.
“One of the great things about the way my cause is set up is that it can travel with wherever I go so I can continue to share my love for the arts and for animals,” said Madeline, who also sells her prints online through her Etsy store.
From the time it takes to complete a painting to making the products then setting up at farmers markets and fairs, Madeline estimates that she’s dedicated at least 100 hours to A Second Chance so far. But she said it’s more than worth it because she’s doing what she loves – creating art – while helping the creatures she loves most – animals.
“If you pursue what you’re passionate about, it becomes so much more gratifying and so much easier to give back and help your community,” Madeline said.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Madeline? Find local volunteer opportunities.