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Friday, Aug. 10, 2012

Girls honored for generous spirits

Special to The Olathe News

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Two girls with generous hearts earned a boost to their college funds recently as a reward for the work they put into improving the world.

Anika Lam of Olathe and Cara Madison of Liberty won $1,000 Kohl’s Cares regional scholarships for their volunteer work. Lam is expressing her love of animals by fostering shelter dogs in Kansas City. Madison is using her talents as a performer to support orphans in Africa and in Haiti.

Anika, 10, lives in Olathe and attends Briarwood Elementary. She is an animal lover, that is for certain. She and her family are the proud owners of three dogs, six birds, a snake a three fish. To add to her personal animal kingdom Lam and her family open their home to animals from the Wayside Waifs animal shelter in Kansas City.

Anika’s mother, Kristi said her daughter has always wanted to be a veterinarian and when she saw commercials on TV asking for families willing to foster animals, they just couldn’t say no.

“We think everybody deserves love,” Anika said.

Wayside Waifs shelter is a no-kill shelter that accepts pets from owners, strays, animals from other shelters that do not have room and local animal control units. Because of the environments that many of the animals come from they often need extra attention and love before they are ready for adoption.

That is where family’s like the Lams come in. Tyler Petty, the manager of the foster care program at Wayside Waifs, said foster families are a key part of the shelter’s success. They step in when the organization gets animals that cannot stay in the shelter, such as very young puppies, anti-social animals and animals that are recovering from recent surgery.

Anika said her family usually takes in dogs and puppies.

She said she makes sure the animals know that they are loved when they stay at her house. They get to play with people every day so that they area socialized and ready to be adopted when they go back to the shelter.

Petty said being a part of a foster family is a great experience for young people like Anika.

“I think it can teach them about long-term projects that they can really get into and see what all that hard work can turn into.”

Petty said fostering animals is a family affair. Each fostering family grows closer over the shared experience of taking care of an animal in need and seeing it become ready to start a new life, he said.

Aid to orphans

Cara, 11, will be a sixth-grader at Liberty Middle School in just a few weeks. She learned several years ago how she can change lives on the other side of the world through her passions.

She explained that when she was in second grade the principal’s niece Amanda Dye spoke to her class about her work at an orphanage in Africa.

Dye made an impact on Cara when she put a pile of rice in one chair and then just a few grains in another. She explained that the large pile represented the number of people in the village where she worked in the orphanage and the few grains represented the amount of food that they had to eat.

Cara said seeing that changed how she saw the world. “I wanted to take all of my money and send it to the orphans in Africa,” she said.

She told her mother, Ann, about Dye and the orphanage and that all she wanted to do was help. Her mother encouraged her to think beyond just emptying her piggy bank and sending the money. Together they came up with the idea of hosting a neighborhood talent show and donating the money to help the orphans.

The shows — now annual events at St. Steven’s Lutheran Church in Liberty— usually draw 15 to 20 acts.

The first talent show was held in July 2009 and since then Cara has raised more than $12,000 to benefit orphans in both Africa and Haiti.

She said her goal for next summer is to go on a mission trip to Haiti to see an orphanage that she helped to build.

The scholarships from Kohl’s will go to the girls’ college funds.

Lam wants to pursue a career as a vet and said she would like to work at Wayside Waifs.

Cara said she wants to continue helping others by becoming a kindergarten or first-grade teacher.

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