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Bringing Christmas spirit to animals

January 18, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

BOONSBORO -- When 12-year-old David Drawbaugh decided to organize a drive to collect toys and treats for shelter animals last month, he wasn't looking for community service hours, Scout honors or personal recognition.

"He just wanted to help the animals, that's all," said his mother, Julie Drawbaugh. "He said everyone should have a merry Christmas, even them."

Over 10 days, David's "Santa Paws" drive at Boonsboro Middle School brought in four boxes full of toys, treats, collars and grooming supplies for the Humane Society of Washington County.

David, an animal lover with a variety of furred, feathered and scaled pets, said it is a tradition in his family to do something special for the animals at Christmas, too. This year, the packages under his tree included tennis balls and bones for the family's German shepherd, a mirror and toys for the birds, rocks and trees for the fire-bellied toad and a new shelter for Molly the lizard.

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The animals give the humans gifts, too, in their own ways.

"They're great company, that's one thing," David said. "Even when I'm all by myself, I feel secure and happy to have another, you know, thing in the house with me."

But this year, David didn't stop at his own pets. He found himself thinking about those who would spend the holiday in shelters, waiting for homes.

"They deserve better, and I'm like, 'How can I make them know that they're well-deserved?' and I thought that a drive might be really good for them," David said.

He wrote up a plan and had it approved by his guidance counselor and school principal, wrote an ad for the school to read on the morning announcements and homework hot lines, and had posters printed by students at Washington County Technical High School.

"I've never organized something this big before," David said.

Word spread, and by the time the drive ended Dec. 12, so much had been donated that David and his mother had to drag one of the boxes to the car.

They dropped the items off at the Humane Society the next day, asking the shelter to give them to the animals on Christmas.

Humane Society spokeswoman Katherine Cooker said the generosity of people like David helps make the holidays brighter for the shelter's animals. As part of the Iams "Home 4 the Holidays" adoption campaign, the shelter had local schools fill stockings with treats to send home with pets adopted in December, but pets who don't find homes shared in the loot, too.

On Christmas Day, the shelter was closed, but when staff members came in to clean the kennels and feed the animals, they gave them extra squeaky toys and chew toys, Cooker said.

"We just kind of spoil them a little bit on that day," she said.

The organization is appreciative of David's efforts, Cooker said.

"For him to do it himself, that is just so kind and so generous because it takes time to set something like that up," she said.

Kindness and generosity have always been a major part of David's personality, his mother said.

"My son has actually gone on field trips and has given all his money away to other people, buying them food, and he hasn't eaten anything," she said.

David, a seventh-grader, is a Boy Scout, plays football and basketball, and has a black belt in tae kwon do. He enjoys science and has considered a career as a professor of paleontology. He lives with his mother, 11-year-old brother and 4-year-old sister, and is eagerly awaiting his father's return next month from Iraq, where he is serving with the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard, based in Martinsburg, W.Va.

In video chats, David kept his father posted on his Santa Paws project.

"He was very proud," David's mother said.

David is already thinking about turning Santa Paws into an annual event.

"We'll do this next year, too, but like a bigger drive, with a lot more stuff," he said.

"He just wanted to help the animals, that's all," said his mother, Julie Drawbaugh. "He said everyone should have a merry Christmas, even them."

Over 10 days, David's "Santa Paws" drive at Boonsboro Middle School brought in four boxes full of toys, treats, collars and grooming supplies for the Humane Society of Washington County.

David, an animal lover with a variety of furred, feathered and scaled pets, said it is a tradition in his family to do something special for the animals at Christmas, too. This year, the packages under his tree included tennis balls and bones for the family's German shepherd, a mirror and toys for the birds, rocks and trees for the fire-bellied toad and a new shelter for Molly the lizard.

The animals give the humans gifts, too, in their own ways.

"They're great company, that's one thing," David said. "Even when I'm all by myself, I feel secure and happy to have another, you know, thing in the house with me."

But this year, David didn't stop at his own pets. He found himself thinking about those who would spend the holiday in shelters, waiting for homes.

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