Kindness in Action
By Karen Goff, Content Marketing Coordinator
“Look into my eyes. Can you see my joy? My fear? Contentment? Hunger? Can you feel my pain and see my happiness? I know I speak in barks and purrs, meows and howls and grunts; but if you watch me carefully, you might begin to understand me. And maybe you’ll see, I’m not that much different than you.”
What would our animals say to us if they spoke the same language as we do? How could our lives and relationships with them be different if we knew how to listen and empathize with them? How would their lives be different? The Sacramento SPCA’s kids camp program, Camp Kindness, is designed to foster this awareness about animals at a young age through animal-related education, professional demonstrations, veterinary observation, tours, guest speakers, as well as plenty of crafts, games, and fun animal-socializing time! Camp Kindness is offered 3 times per year and is open to children ages 7 – 15.
This newly revamped program is led by our new Humane Education & Outreach Coordinator, Erika Sanders (pictured right) in partnership with the RedRover Readers Program. RedRover uses a unique story-based curriculum to teach empathy while helping students become more aware of themselves and their communities. Erika spent many hours developing curriculum and integrating RedRover techniques and materials to create the current program. Her background as a classroom teacher to high-risk youth, as well as her passion for animals, are the perfect combination to create a meaningful experience for youth who attend camp.
“One of the most impactful changes in 2018 is thanks to the support and partnership of The Sacramento River Cats Foundation and the Teichert Foundation”, said Erika. The Sacramento River Cats Foundation presented a check of $2,500 (pictured left) to be used exclusively for scholarships for students from low-income families. The summer session has awarded 6 scholarships so far, more than ever before and the Teichert Foundation generously donated all of the craft supplies used this year.
Another big change this year was the integration of more hands-on time with animals. Marnie Musser, the Community Outreach Manager, had an integral role in facilitating Camp Kindness. It was her goal to include more hands-on animal socialization for all age groups. With the help of a dozen volunteer animal handlers, campers got to see bottle-baby kitten feedings as well as socialize older kittens, adult cats, rabbits, and dogs of all sizes. Many campers say this is their favorite part of camp. Older campers were also able to observe a spay and neuter surgery, which is always a highlight of those sessions. All of these activities give campers the opportunity to see the concepts they learned during classroom sessions in practice. “Including more animals in the curriculum was a natural addition”, Erika said, “and one of the reasons I joined the Sacramento SPCA – to combine my love of teaching with my love of animals.”
From the enthusiasm and passion of the campers, it’s easy to see that this experience is not only changing the way campers see animals, but also the way they see themselves. They have begun to see that we humans have a role and responsibility to our animals and our community: to spay and neuter, vaccinate, train, foster, and adopt as well as to love and care for animals. This also resulted in several happy endings for our animals. One senior cat and one guinea pig each found a home with camp counselors who had spent time with them. Another counselor sponsored the adoption fee of Sunny, one of our Pawspice dogs (pictured right). One camper asked for toys and treats for shelter animals instead of birthday presents, and two other campers raised money for the shelter with two separate lemonade stands!