He did it for the love of animals, not money — but the money is nice, too. High school senior Andrew Harmon from Troy, Ohio, has an extra $1,000 in his college fund after winning this year’s P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You) Scholars Helping Collars scholarship competition.
“Shelters and sanctuaries don’t receive enough credit for what goes on behind the scenes,” says Harmon, who works at His Hands Extended Sanctuary as both a staff member and in a volunteer capacity.
As an Eagle Scout with an interest in philanthropy and leadership, Harmon got to know the folks at His Hands after accompanying his mother to pick up their cat, Marco, from the sanctuary’s low-cost spay and neuter program. Harmon didn’t know it at the time, but he would one day be in charge of getting newly spayed pets back to their people.
Before he would become an employee, though, Harmon would prove himself as a volunteer. While helping his mom get Marco ready for the post-neutering journey home, the teen noticed the sanctuary looked like it could use a helping hand itself. He got in touch with folks running His Hands and offered to dedicate his Eagle Scout Project to the sanctuary. It was great timing for the organization, as it was about to embark on a plan to install chain-link dog runs.
In the spirit of Eagle Scout leadership, Harmon organized a pet photo-booth fundraiser in the parking lot of the Tractor Supply Company and enlisted his mother’s services as a dog photographer. The teen entertained the dogs while his mom snapped their pictures, and he talked the manager at Meijer store down the street into donating a $50 gift card toward the printing costs.
Harmon also convinced a local Rotary member to make a cash donation to the cause, and when he contacted Lowe’s, the building supply company agreed to match the funds he raised plus 10 percent, which saved His Hands an extra $1,000.
“That was actually a lot easier than I expected it to be,” Harmon explains. “All the businesses were really excited about the project as well. They were all really excited to help out. It wasn’t hard working with them. We didn’t have to continually call anybody — nobody was hard to get ahold of. It was actually a lot easier than arranging the workforce, with most of the workforce being teenagers.”
Those teenagers were friends and fellow scouts who Harmon drafted into dog run-building duty. Over the course of a few weeks, three much-needed dog runs were erected, completing Harmon’s Eagle Scout project. When the project was over, though, Harmon continued to work, even convincing a couple friends to come back out to the sanctuary and build two additional dog runs with him.
One day, Harmon noticed a Facebook post about how His Hands was looking for someone to help with surgical release duties at the spay and neuter clinic. The job involved making sure dogs and cats were safely released to their owners after surgery, in a crate or on a leash without having licked their stitches open. A couple of direct messages later, the job was his.
“That kind of expanded into doing odds-and-ends types of job,” Harmon explains. “That even grew from there to getting to work in the kennels and getting to clean up after the dogs. The best part is getting to see the animals and getting to play with them every once in awhile.”
In his scholarship winning essay, Harmon explained what helping out at His Hands taught him about world of animal rescue.
“I quickly fell in love with many of the animals, and for me and the other employees/volunteers, it’s not just a job, but a common desire to see the rescued animals receive a better life,” Harmon wrote.
He says his advice to other teens interested in helping animals is simple: Always start as a volunteer, especially if you’re looking for a job in the rescue world. Harmon plans to study computer science and engineering at Capital University, but the self-described dog person will always have a soft spot for those who dedicate their lives to animal care.