While most kids are watching cartoons, 11-year-old Halley Vincent spends Saturday mornings gathering pet supplies in parking lots. Each Tuesday, she snuggles up to shelter animals and reads them stories. Since 2018, she’s raised thousands of dollars in monetary and product donations for her local shelters.
That’s right: This 6th-grader has done more for animals in the past two years than most people do throughout their whole lives.
Halley is the driving force behind Paws Up KC, the organization she founded to raise money for animal shelters in Kansas City, Kansas (located about 15 minutes from the better-known Kansas City in Missouri). To date, Paws Up KC has donated $1,800 in cash, over a literal ton of food and supplies, and countless volunteer hours to animals in need.
And it all started with a bake sale.
“I’ve always loved animals,” Halley says, recalling her first philanthropic effort in 2018, “so it was something I really wanted to do.” Inspired by other students’ fundraisers, she got permission from her school to raise funds for a cause close to her heart: the Great Plains SPCA in Merriam, Kansas, where her family had adopted their dog, TaiBei. She made cookies, brownies and popcorn balls, and brought them to school to sell for $2 each. That first weeklong bake sale raised $325.29 for the shelter.
After that, Halley says, she was hooked.
The following year, she expanded her sale to a full month, raising over $1,000 for local shelters. Today, her fundraising efforts, which have expanded way beyond selling baked goods, run 365 days a year—and that’s just the beginning of her work to help pets in need.
Halley also collects donations of pet supplies, parking a pull-behind travel trailer (with the help of her parents) in the parking lots of local businesses to collect food, collars, treats and other items on local shelters’ wish lists. She gives talks to kids and schools in the area, making sure they know that shelter pets need their help. And she keeps her online community informed with photos and informational videos letting viewers know all the ways they can help animals, too.
But last year, she says, it started to feel like she needed to do even more. “I didn’t feel like it was enough to just donate money and treats,” she says. “I felt like we needed to volunteer our time.”
That’s when Halley created the Rescue Readers program, which invites kids between the ages of 5 and 15 to read to animals at local shelters.
“I read an article about how kids aren’t reading as much as they need to,” she says. “So I talked to the people at the shelters and they were very supportive.”
As many as 13 Kansas City-area kids join Halley to read to homeless pets each Tuesday. Halley even showed up to read to the animals on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve last year. The program gets kids reading, she says, and it has benefits for animals too, socializing them to different types of people. “We have a lot of fun,” Halley says, “and it really does calm the pets down.”
As part of Rescue Readers, Halley records a video review of each book she reads and posts it to the Paws Up KC Facebook page. Authors like Melissa Stewart and Melinda Long have taken notice, and some have even sent her their latest books to share with her animal audiences. But she’s also exploring the classics.
“I don't just review new released books, but I try to also read a lot of older books,” she says. “I think old books that you get secondhand are kind of like animals at a shelter. They have a lot of life left in them.”
In recent months, Halley has faced a new obstacle: social distancing measures, which have put her in-person philanthropic efforts on hold. But she’s determined to keep making a difference.
“I really miss being at the shelter and seeing all the dogs,” she says, “but for Rescue Readers, I can read to my pets at home, and I still review the books.” She’s also started doing no-contact donation pickups on Tuesdays, gathering pet supplies from locals’ front porches and leaving a sweet token of gratitude behind: a handmade paper flower on a wire to display on their lawns.
“I also walked and personally delivered the flowers to every neighbor until I ran out,” she says. “That wasn't really work that was about animals, but I think it's important to keep people's spirits up while they had stay-at-home orders in my state.”
With her sunny disposition and tireless devotion, Halley's truly a hero for shelter pets—and she’s proving that anyone can make a difference for animals in need.
“I think the more kids I can reach, the better, because kids have time—and they have influence on how their parents spend their money,” she says. “We're the perfect philanthropists!”
Chewy is supporting Halley and Paws Up KC with a $1,000 donation of supplies for shelter pets. Want to pitch in too? Visit Paws Up KC's Facebook page to learn more about ways you can help.