BRADENTON — Anna McCarthy, 15, was in the kitchen baking cupcakes when her golden retriever Aubie plopped his paws on the counter to check out her work.
The 2-year-old pooch’s curiosity sparked an idea and Anna started making dog biscuits. Soon the Manatee High School student was selling her canine creations to neighbors and donating the profits to pet shelters.
Anna recently won a $1,000 grant from DoSomething.org and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for her project called Bones for Homes.
The grant program asked teens across the country to submit ideas on how to support animal welfare in their communities. Anna was one of thousands to submit a project — an idea formally set into motion after she set up a booth and sold her biscuits at Manatee County Humane Society’s fourth annual walk-a-thon, Paws in Motion.
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During the event, in which she raised more than $100, she inquired about volunteering at the Humane Society’s shelter. Much to her chagrin, she was told children ages 16 and younger cannot volunteer there without parental supervision. That posed a problem for Anna.
“Kids want to help support their local animal shelters, but find it difficult to drag a busy adult with them to the local shelters and volunteer,” she said.
So she took to her biscuit-making efforts and started Bones for Homes, her youth-led organization that empowers kids — she calls them Bones for Homes Ambassadors — to bake dog biscuits and sell them at local fundraisers, community events and local pet stores.
Her top priority: raise awareness about the importance of adopting pets and volunteering at local animal shelters.
“We love Anna’s creative approach to helping animals, and her enthusiasm for involving other young people who are not old enough to volunteer at animal shelters,” said Nancy Lublin, DoSomething.org CEO. “Anna and Bones for Homes really stuck out as an innovative project, balanced with a well-thought and detailed plan to expand to other youth across the U.S.”
Anna said she is using the grant money to provide starter kits for new ambassadors. Each kit includes three cookie cutters, pre-printed Bones for Homes biscuit bags and recipe cards.
Interested students can visit the Bones for Homes website to sign up.
As part of her grant, Anna also receives monthly advice via monthly conference calls on how to effectively run her organization — from social network marketing to the pros and cons of becoming a nonprofit.
In the meantime, Anna is already attempting to expand her program beyond Bradenton.
Next month, she has a kids baking session at the State College of Florida’s Kids Summer Spectrum.
Her hope is for Bones for Homes to become a nationwide organization. She’s already created a website and a Facebook fan page, and now she has her sights set on becoming a nonprofit.
“I think it’s a good cause,” said Emma Carper, 15, who recently helped Anna make two batches of biscuits. “It was fun making them, but it’s something only a dog would like.”
They don’t take long to make either, she said. They mustered two batches in a half-hour.
For pet owners hesitant about dog treats made by teens, Anna said don’t fear.
“All of the recipes listed on my website are Aubie tested and approved,” she said.
In addition to Aubie, who has a sensitive stomach, her neighborhood pooch pals have also chomped a few. And she gave out a survey to those neighborhood pups — so the treats have a paw rating.
Aubie’s favorite is PB Bones, made from peanut butter, flour and water.
The neighborhood pooches give it 12 out of 12 paws.
For more information
n To learn more about Anna’s project, visit www.bonesforhomes.org.
n To visit her fan page on Facebook, do a search for “Bones for Homes.”