MANATEE -- When Alexandra "Lexi" Brown grew up, she wanted to have an animal shelter of her own.
The 10-year-old girl from Parrish spent the past year volunteering at Honor Animal Rescue, where staff and other volunteers were shocked to learn Lexi was apparently shot by her father, Timothy Brown, 47, earlier this week in what appears to be a murder-suicide in rural Ohio.
"It saddens us greatly," said Karissa Mayer, director of operations at Honor Animal Rescue. "She knew what she wanted. She would have contributed great things. She wanted to have her own animal shelter when she got older. She had started a petition to ban puppy mills that she had planned on sending to President Obama."
The shelter plans to work with Lexi's family to complete the petition that Lexi started after a Venice animal hoarding case in which many animals were removed from a home and sent to the East Manatee facility.
Honor Animal Rescue is also expanding its Open Paw program, which allows kids to assist in kennel training. Lexi's Pet Pals will encompass part of the program where children raise money or collect food for the shelter.
"We have a lot of kids who, in lieu of birthday presents, will ask for donations or dog food. A couple of girls made duct tape flowers and sold them at school, donating the money to our shelter," Mayer said. "We were trying to think of a name for the children who have projects they do. We thought it was a great way to honor her and all of the kids like her."
Lexi and several of her classmates at Gene Witt Elementary worked with the shelter. She most recently convinced her family to complete training that would allow them to socialize dogs. The session was planned for Sunday, Mayer said.
Mayer said Lexi would come to the shelter in her free time playing with dogs, and developing a special relationship with a few.
"We had a dog named Addie that was here for over a year. She was so excited when Addie was finally adopted," Mayer said. "She loved Sookie, a little pit bull we had here for a while. She was always trying to convince her mom to adopt another dog."
Mayer said children like Lexi are an inspiration to those involved with the shelter.
"The whole reason we started these programs is because kids like Lexi are amazing. They know what's right, they know what they want, and they're going to find a way to do it," Mayer said. "She wanted to make things better for all animals. When she was here she just lit up. She had such a youthful optimism -- there was no way every single dog here would not get adopted, and cats, too. She was determined to make a difference."
Now, family and friends continue her legacy, visiting the shelter to give their time or money to one of Lexi's favorite causes.
Lexi's family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Honor Animal Rescue located 4951 Lorraine Road. The shelter can be reached at 941-747-4900.
Elizabeth Johnson, Herald crime reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. Follow her on Twitter @EJohnsonBHcrime.