‘It’s really empowered them’: Killingworth first graders gather food and make blankets for shelter pets

Connecticut Families

KILLINGWORTH – Cupid, a rescue dog named for Santa’s reindeer, visits Killingworth Elementary School, delighting the kids. But this meet and greet has a larger purpose. It’s a ‘thank you’ for the first graders’ generosity.

“First we made cards to give to the animals,” explains Brooks Ford who, with his peers, has been on a mission to make the holidays merry and bright for rescues….organizing a food drive and making blankets for the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter.

“We are trying to promote social, emotional learning, especially with youngsters because of covid, there ate gaps in their social, emotional learning,” says longtime teacher Dorothy Lomazzo who spearheaded the project. “A lot of the kids have animals at home but this is a different level because they’re thinking about homeless animals, animals out in the cold.”

“It will make an impact on other kids, too, because other kids will be inspired to do this – so, it’s really important,” says shelter director and animal control officer Laura Burban of these cozy donations and thoughtful kindness…good for the dogs and the kids.

“It’s an easy thing to do, it’s at their level, they can appreciate what they’re doing and they also get something back from it. They feel good if they’re petting a dog and the dogs like to be pet,” says Burban, grateful to be back out in the community in an outdoor classroom, raising awareness, opening eyes.

While the first graders met some of the shelter’s more unusual residents – guinea pigs – they also enjoyed Cupid’s tricks, the gifts of man’s best friend.

“I feel like they’re really cute and like to play with other dogs,” says Brooks.

“You get to play with them,” adds his friend, Ryan.

The project is a great way to foster compassion which will then translate into how the children treat their peers.

“It’s really empowered them. They feel like a big deal! They’re little kids who are making a difference and it’s resonating,” says Lomazzo who hopes to continue this project with the shelter in the spring.

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