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Students give time, creativity and whole lot of heart to shelter animals

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published February 20, 2012

 Reach Academy students Veyshia Voyer, 11, and Averi Peguies, 8, paste paper with colorful drawings on a box they’re making into a kitty fort to donate to the Humane Society.

Reach Academy students Veyshia Voyer, 11, and Averi Peguies, 8, paste paper with colorful drawings on a box they’re making into a kitty fort to donate to the Humane Society.

Photo by Sara Kandel

ROSEVILLE — A group of students at Reach Academy meets weekly after school to help make the lives of shelter animals a little better.

They don’t donate their time in the shelters, though. Instead, they make lasting gifts for the animals housed in them. Last semester, it was fleece blankets for dogs. This semester, it’s kitty forts and cat boxes.

“They’re making kitty houses to be transported in so when they are adopted they have something to go in, but also for the cat to recognize, ‘OK, this is my box,’ because when they go to a new home, they get a little scared, and if there is something they recognize from where they came from, they tend to go to that for comfort,” said Melissa LaTorre, a Reach Academy teacher and the after-school club coordinator.

The club these kids are in is called Paws for a Cause, and they’ll spend the next eight weeks meeting for an hour after school each Tuesday, making cat houses to donate to the Humane Society.

The club is one of a handful Reach students are offered each semester. The clubs vary from movie or comic strip making to cooking and “manicures 101.” While the activities vary, the theme throughout them all is the same — moral focus and fun.

“Instead of just talking about moral focus and preaching it, the club shows them
focuses such as compassion, respect and teamwork,” LaTorre said. “It teaches them how to work together, and that’s the type of teamwork we try to promote and want them to learn from.”

Before they get started, LaTorre tells them to remember three things: compassion, respect and creativity. And they do, even when having fun.

“I’m just here for the candy,” joked 8-year-old Averi Peguies while coloring a sheet of purple construction paper that will decorate the inside of one of the boxes. “It’s fun though.”

“Me personally, I’m here because I like to hang out with a lot of animals,” said 9-year-old Jack Hey, one of two boys to join the effort this semester. “I have two dogs at my house actually, but I don’t get to see cats anymore because my dad is allergic to them.”

Sitting across from Hey, Jannie Duong carefully pastes colored paper inside the box she’s working on. She’s quiet and focused, but smiles widely each time she pauses to say hello to a friend or take in her creation at arm’s length.

“There’s a cat that comes to my house that doesn’t have a home, so I was thinking that I could join this club and a learn how to make it a home,” 12-year-old Duong said.

“They’re all the animal lovers,” said Jane Haun, the Reach teacher who headed the club last semester, when it was the Humane Heroes. “It was terrific. We had about eight or nine girls that are almost all in here now, and they made 29 blankets, and we actually got to drop them off to the Humane Society and got a tour and (to) play with the puppies. It was great.”

The best part, Haun explained, is that while the girls in the club really enjoyed themselves, the cost of the materials was completely covered through donations. To keep club prices down — at $10 per kid for the semester — LaTorre and Haun collect as many donations as they can.

Right now, they’re collecting boxes for their cat homes, but they’re also still accepting used fleece blankets to store until fall when they will begin making the dog blankets again.

“We’re still looking for boxes of any kind and size from down to the kitties up to the big cats, because there are many adult cats that need to be adopted,” LaTorre said. “We would really like to get some 12-by-12-by-12 boxes, but we’ll take anything.”

“We want to show the cats some comfort and help them ease into the adoption process.”

Call (586) 498-9171 or email for information on donating cardboard boxes and fleece blankets to the Humane Heroes and Paws for a Cause clubs.