They’ve served their country bravely, and sacrificed so much. Disabled veterans deserve all the support they can get from their fellow Americans.
A select few are strong enough to continue their service, however. Among them, perhaps none stronger or more selfless than Grace Hamlin. Hamlin’s W-Underdogs program is keeping Atlanta youths out of gangs, and teaching them to care for homeless pets.
According to the Dogington Post, Hamlin noticed gangs In her Peoplestown/South Atlanta neighborhood were targeting local children, hoping to recruit them into lives of crime. But the veteran wasn’t about to let those lives go. She invited a small group of kids to help with the stray dogs she had been caring for.
The experiment was a success, and many more would soon follow. While the stray dogs are groomed and shown a love they have long lived without, the children are taught leadership and life skills with the new responsibility. They build dog houses, cat trees, and even share food donations with pet parents who could use the supplies.
“We teach the kids how to manage, care and train dogs and cats and vet them as needed. They learn personal discipline and responsibility as they rehabilitate the animals. They learn how to care for animals and in turn, how to care for themselves and compassion for others.”
More than 300 dogs have been cared for and rehabilitated through the program. Both the children involved and the Peoplestown/South Atlanta neighborhood have been transformed as well.
Thanks to Hamlin these children can now make more of themselves than life in a gang could ever offer. They have a brighter future, and others are starting to take notice.
“There are heroes in every community who dedicate their lives to helping animals and are true lifesaving champions,” said Susanne Kogut, president of the Petco Foundation. “Honoring a few of these people and telling their stories is our way of saying ‘thank you’ to all of them. And perhaps these stories will inspire others to become heroes for animals, too.”
The Petco Foundation and pet behavior expert Victoria Stilwell have honored Hamlin as an Unsung Hero, an award bestowed on those who demonstrate lifesaving efforts on behalf of animals.
“Seeing firsthand the outstanding work being done by these people in their communities was truly inspiring,” said Stilwell. “It was a tremendous honor capturing on tape the spirit and passion of what they do every day, and I’m very excited for a wider audience to witness their amazing work via the Unsung Heroes video series.”
Watch more in the video below!
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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