Posted on April 26 2016
Think back to when you were seventeen years old. What were you doing? Fulfilling all the required extra curricular activities for your college application, a part-time job, hanging out with your friends and attending school. Most teenagers don’t think about think about starting their own non-profit organization. Most teenagers are not Annie Blumenfeld, who started her own nonprofit, Wags 4 Hope, when she was just 14 years old.
Wags 4 Hope came into existence when her family adopted their shaggy dog, Teddy from the Houston Shaggy Dog Rescue.
“...it wasn't a simple love story at first. Although Teddy looked dazzling when he arrived to our home, back in Texas, he had heartworm disease, a disease that is caused from an infected mosquito, which produces larva that grows in the dog's heart, lungs, and surrounding blood vessels. Teddy was in a cage for more than a month being treated. (For more information on heartworm disease please visit the American Heartworm Society.)”
- Annie Blumenfeld
Inspired by her furry companion, Annie began researching about heartworm disease in dogs and found that animals infected with heartworm disease are placed at the top of high-kill shelters list. This is due to the high cost of the treatment, which can range anywhere from $600 for a small dog to $2,000 for a larger dog.
A few days after adopting Teddy, a portrait of a sheepdog that Annie had painted had been selected to be featured in a local art show. During the exhibit, a women offered to buy the painting and asked if Annie would be willing paint portraits of other dogs. After this, Wags 4 Hope was born.
"My organization works to support shelter animals medical needs' and spreads heartworm awareness. I sell custom dog and cat portraits and give all of the proceeds to shelters and rescues. I speak out about heartworm through magazines, on the radio, and whenever really I see a dog in the street, it is my passion."
- Annie Blumenfeld
Now at 17 years old, Annie splits her time between raising money and managing for her organization, attending school, preparing for college and being a teenager. When she’s not doing any of that, she is testifies before the Connecticut legislative committee to raise awareness of heartworm disease in dogs.
Annie advocated for the inclusion of a heartworm disease educational message on the Dog Licenses in Connecticut. Every dog owner is required by the law to fill out a dog license. By including the heartworm message, every dog owner in the state would see the message and become aware of its existence. This was the motivating purpose behind Wags 4 Hope and Annie's legislative work.
Unfortunately, the bill for awareness of heartworm disease did not pass, but Annie kept pressing the issue. In December 2014, the bill finally passed and each dog license now includes an educational heartworm message. The state Department of Agriculture, whom Annie worked with to achieve this goal, asked her to draw a mixed breed portrait to be featured on the license. Check out the license below:
Annie is truly an inspiration to all of us here at Forever In My Heart Jewelry and we are lucky to be able to partner with such an accomplished teen. By purchasing any of our jewelry, you can donate 40% of the purchase to support Annie and her cause. If you want to donate to Annie directly, go to her Wags 4 Hope website.
If you're just as inspired by Annie as we are, be sure to like Wags 4 Hope on Facebook and invite your friends!