Photo by Kelly White
Ava DeYoung (left), 12, of Palos Hills, and Izabella Torres, 12, of Hickory Hills, made pet toys for shelter animals at Green Hills Library, 10331 S. Interlochen Drive, Palos Hills.
By Kelly White
Ava DeYoung loves animals and aspires to volunteer at local animal shelters when she gets old enough.
“I think shelter adoptions are great,” said DeYoung, 12, of Palos Hills. “When I am older, I would like to foster animals of my own.”
Her family adopted their 3-year-old Doberman-Labrador mix, Khaleesi, named after the “Game of Thrones” character, from the Animal Welfare League in Chicago Ridge just three years ago. In order to help shelter animals like Khaleesi during the giving season, DeYoung joined several other local area teens at the Green Hills Public Library last month to create handmade toys for shelter animals just in time for Christmas.
The items that were created will be used to provide warmth, a sense of safety and security, giving the animals the ability to be comfortable and relax. The project was also a way for the teens to gain service hours at the library located at 10331 S. Interlochen Drive in Palos Hills.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for youth to work towards completing their service hours in a meaningful way,” said Jane Jenkins, director of the Green Hills Public Library. “I volunteer at an animal rescue so this is a project that is dear to my heart.”
“As a library, we have been moving towards more service-based events and programs,” said Amanda Kowalcze, head of Youth Services at the Green Hills Library. “It’s been great because the teens get to see the results of their work. It’s not only a hands-on learning opportunity; they’re also supporting the local community.”
Kowalcze was responsible for organizing the event that brought together a total of 50 teens that were broken into groups of 25 each in two-hour time slots at the library.
Prior to beginning the project, the teens were educated by library staff members on animal shelters and volunteer opportunities that may be available to them.
The idea for the project sparked after the library participated in a Project Linus blanket making project in September. Through Project Linus, handmade fleece blankets are delivered to area hospitals to provide comfort to children within their care. The pet blanket and toy making project holds the same concept of providing comfort to animals in need.
The dog and cat toys created will be available for shelters to use for pets in the shelter or for take home items with the pets once they are adopted.
“This is something small you can do that might make a huge difference, even if it’s just to an animal,” said McKenna Robinson, 15, of Palos Hills. “It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re going to be making them happy.”
“Hopefully, this project will help teens to consider volunteer opportunities at animal shelters, or maybe one day, shelter adopting an animal of their own,” Kowalcze said.
Each teen was responsible for making one basic pull toy through a demonstrated presentation and then one toy of his or her choice.
All materials for the pet toys were provided by the library. Basic pull toys and do-it-yourself specialized or stuffed toys were made from leftover items of previous craft projects that had taken place at the library in the past. Items included, but were not limited to: T-shirts, socks, water bottles, and fleece blanket material. No sewing was involved and library staff was available to aid in the creation of the pet toys.
“This was a way for teens to spend time being creative and learning a new skill at the same time,” Kowalcze said. “They also were able to do this while knowing they were doing something for someone else. Our goal is that teens continue on to use their creativity to carry on service projects like this.”
“This was fun for me because I enjoy doing arts and crafts in my free time,” said Desiree Myles, 15, of Palos Hills.
This was the first time the library held the event, but Kowalcze said the she would like to hold it again.
“I really enjoyed this project,” said Izabella Torres, 12, of Hickory Hills. “It gave teens the opportunity to volunteer and make pets happy.”