TMJH's Leadership Class is a unique opportunity for students to take initiative within the community through "project learning." The class is a special effort by principle Bob O'Connor and class advisor, Julie Hooker to improve leadership among students. Students learn to work together in 'boards,' craft marketing messages and work with other community organizations. Morgan and Prior's petCare project is unique within the Leadership Class because rather than supporting existing non-profits' efforts like most of the boards, petCare is an entirely new community service initiated by students.
To set up petCare, Morgan and Prior had to coordinate efforts with their student board and several community organizations: the Park City Christian Center donated the space to store pet food and serve as a distribution center; PetCo donated heavy-duty shelves to hold the food; the Park City Animal Clinic and Royal Canin each donated more than 200 pounds of food; and Hills Pet Food is donating one bag of food for every four purchased. In addition to community donations, the Leadership Class board set up collection boxes in classrooms at TMJH - the class with the most donations will win a donut party.
Though Morgan and Prior both grew up with pets and veterinary dads, their inspiration for the project came from separate experiences.
Several years ago, Prior was on a family vacation to New York City where the family saw cats that were visibly malnourished and horribly skinny. "Ever since I saw that I wanted to find a way to help pets," said Prior. He also realized that even in Utah there were many needy animals and came up with the idea of a food bank for pets.
Morgan is regularly inspired by the TV show, Animal Cops. Though Morgan finds the animal abuse featured in the show "disturbing," she admires the men and women that investigate and rescue the animals from abusive situations.
The students point out that, especially in Summit County, pets are often considered an important part of the family. They hope that by providing free pet food to the community, families that are struggling financially won't have to give up their pets for adoption. Rather than a seasonal food drive, the students want to ensure that food is available for needy pets year-round.
In addition to collecting food and other pet supplies, Morgan and Prior's board will begin a big push to raise money to spay and neuter pets through programs called "Cash for Canines" and "Coins for Kittens."
The Cash for Canines and Coins for Kittens programs are designed to help further reduce the number of needy pets: "we see lots of pets wandering the streets if you spay and neuter pets there won't be as many strays," Morgan said, "not every one can be adopted."
petCare will begin to distribute food on Oct. 27 and donations will be accepted on a rolling basis. So far collections have focused on supplies for cats and dogs, but items for other pets are also accepted. Morgan and Prior encourage community members to think of needy pets when purchasing pet food and to buy an extra bag of food to donate. "[pets] are just as important as us," said Prior.
Community members can drop of donations of pet food and supplies at TMJH, the Park City Christian Center, or the Park City Animal Clinic. To make a cash donation to Cash for Canines and Coins for Kittens, please contact leadership class advisor, Julie Hooker at firstname.lastname@example.org.