By Kristen Seymour
Most sixth-graders save their money for things like candy, movies or maybe, if they're really motivated, a new bike. Clearly, Kam Gottlieb of Wilmette, Ill., is not your typical sixth-grader.
The 12-year-old recently raised money to donate a dogPACER treadmill to Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society and will donate a second one to the Humane Society of Southwest Michigan this month. When we heard about Gottlieb's generosity, we couldn't help but wonder two things: What would motivate a girl her age to do so much fundraising, and why dog treadmills? To get the answers, we went straight to the source.
Inspiration Is All Around
Gottlieb told us she was inspired to make a difference by a friend's mom who has helped out in Haiti. "When she got back, she showed me some photos, and I was really interested. I knew I wanted to help, and there are a lot of things that need help," Gottlieb said. "I've always loved animals and decided I wanted to do something with shelter dogs."
Still, Gottlieb was aware that many, many organizations work to help shelter pets, and Gottlieb "wanted to be special and different." She'd heard that it was difficult for dogs in shelters to get the appropriate exercise, especially in the winter in areas like Chicago. Her mother had heard that dog treadmills were gaining popularity. And with that, Gottlieb had her cause.
The Hard Work Begins
She decided to begin raising money at the end of third grade. The following school year, she created a Powerpoint presentation to show her class. Her mom had glow-in-the-dark rubber bracelets made, which they sold to raise money and awareness. Gottlieb also held events, such as a tiki party where people were asked to bring $5. "Everybody was really generous," said Gottlieb, who noted that many people gave more than the suggested donation, enabling her to raise more than $150 at that event alone.
Initially, Gottlieb had been working toward a treadmill that was $1,000, and she raised nearly enough money for that. But when she found dogPACER and realized she had enough money already to purchase a treadmill from them, she was thrilled.
Even more thrilling? The company gave her $100 plus free shipping and then called her back to let her know that they were so inspired by her hard work and dedication that they were going to match her donation and give her a second treadmill to give to the shelter of her choice.
Placing the first treadmill near home was a no-brainer, and when Gottlieb visited the Anti-Cruelty Society on Dec. 17 to make the donation, they made a point of making the day special for her as well. "They brought out a dog, and it was so sweet! It jumped right onto the treadmill," Gottlieb recalled. "The workers there were so nice. They gave me a plaque, T-shirt and a stuffed animal."
She's Not Done Yet
She decided to place the second treadmill in Michigan. "We have a cabin there, and we always donate toys at the Humane Society there," Gottlieb said. "I have a good start on my third treadmill; I'm not sure where I'm going to place that one."
And don't worry about how she'll come up with the funds; she's already begun planning a snowman-building contest and hot chocolate fundraiser this winter and perhaps a one-mile walk/run in the spring.
Considering everything she's done to help dogs, you'd imagine that she's surrounded by pets in her home. In fact, it's just the opposite: The Gottliebs have no pets.
"Everyone in my family but my mom has allergies," Gottlieb lamented. They once had a Poodle, however, and Gottlieb says they have plans to search for another dog in the spring. In the meantime, she's not the only family member finding a way to get her doggie fix: Her mother recently became a dog groomer for fun.
Gottlieb hasn't just inspired her friends and family; she even got the folks at dogPACER emotional. "We were completely blown away that this young lady was so committed to pets that she put such an effort into raising money," said David Ezra, CEO and founder of dogPACER. "We were honored that she chose our product to purchase. Two of our employees got teary-eyed when they heard the story!"
While the company's first response was to give her the treadmill for free, they quickly realized that doing so would discount all of Gottlieb's fundraising; hence, the decision to match her donation. "She was so excited to be able to help another shelter! That totally made our day," Ezra said. "Kam is an inspiration to all of us."
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