(Originally published on Aug. 6, 2012)
Editor's Note: Olivia Lamons was selected as the The Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day for Aug 23, 2012. The feature recognizes citizens across the nation for their extraordinary efforts to make a difference in their communities. Congratulations, Olivia!
A northeast Georgia eight-year-old is dedicated to helping dramatically change, and even save, the lives of shelter dogs and cats.
Olivia Lamons, a third grader at Statham Elementary School where her mother Lacy teaches second grade, loves to read. When she came across an article last spring about a child who raised money for charity through a lemonade stand, she became inspired to help her community.
Olivia combined that desire to serve with her love of pets to form Project Shelter Helper with the goal of raising money for tests and treatments to give the most needy cats and dogs the best possible chance of adoption.
"She had looked online and saw a real need at shelters for the heartworm vaccine because the shelters don't have them and the animals have to be put down," Lacy said about Olivia. "She didn't want the animals to be euthanized, so that's why she focused toward the medicine."
So, Olivia decorated a box and she and her parents went door-to-door in their Bogart neighborhood collecting donations.
"Her mom and I were just proud of the fact that she wanted to do this project and raise money, so we mentioned it on Facebook, our personal page, and everybody started posting back that they wanted to help out -- that they wanted to make donations," Olivia's dad, Kevin, explained.
Within the first 24 hours, Olivia had collected almost $300, and the donations keep coming.
Staff members at Oconee County Animal Control was so touched by Olivia's efforts they invited Project Shelter Helper to sponsor a summer dog wash to raise additional funds for medications and emergency surgeries.
By the time the Aug. 4 fundraiser rolled around, Project Shelter Helper had $820 on the books. Though it was a rainy Saturday, many families still brought their beloved pets to the event, and the fundraiser was expected to push Project Shelter Helper's total donations to over $1,000.
Animal Control officer Crystal Berisko said the shelter doesn't have enough funding to test for ailments like heartworm or feline leukemia, and treatments are even more costly.
"If we do have a dog with heartworm and we fall in love with the dog, it's very heartbreaking to have to make tough decisions," she said.
That's why volunteers like Olivia play such a crucial role in the lives of shelter dogs afflicted with heartworm.
"This will enable us to actually put them through heartworm treatment and put them in a foster home," Berisko said. "Just because they were left outside or didn't have the correct prevention, doesn't mean the dog has to go down."
Olivia was overjoyed to meet shelter dogs during the event. She said she's happy to know she's doing her part to give them a chance to live fulfilled lives.
Anyone interested in learning more about Project Shelter Helper can send inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or donate directly to Oconee County Animal Control in Olivia's honor.