More than 100 young animal lovers tapped into the excitement of Animal Camp 2023 this summer at The Heritage Humane Society. Campers grades first through sixth got hands-on with the shelter’s homeless pets, learned from area animal experts, and experienced firsthand the inner workings of Greater Williamsburg’s largest homeless pet shelter. Along the way, they connected with new friends and made lifelong memories.
What is Animal Camp?
The Heritage Humane Society’s popular summer Animal Camp gives kids the unique opportunity of experiencing a busy animal shelter that cares for more than 1,000 pets each year. Held over five week-long sessions from June 26 through August 4, 2023, more than 100 children ages 7 – 13, made Animal Camp 2023 the shelter’s most-attended camp season. The shelter’s classroom, sponsored by The Tide Radio and WYDaily, served as the central hub with many activities and presentations held there and everyone’s favorite, Friday pizza lunch from Papa John’s of Hampton Roads where its mascot Mr. Slice even made a surprise appearance.
Excited campers donned shirts featuring art made by one of their fellow campers, Lucy Custance. She won the Animal Camp 2023 t-shirt design contest held in March.
They learned about the importance an animal shelter holds within a community. Well beyond cuddly kittens and playful pups, campers learned about how animals arrive at a shelter, the care they need, about the foster and adoption process, community outreach and even volunteering. Older campers spent more time learning how to care for animals. They also enjoyed being responsible for the afternoon feeding of all of the shelter’s cats each day.
Children explored different dog breeds including adaptations of each breed. Fun facts included Newfoundlands were bred for water rescues and they have webbed feet, Labradors have a thick tail to act as a rudder when swimming and small terriers are perfect for catching rodents due to their size, energy level and digging ability.
Special visitors and community supporters
Campers experienced more than dogs and cats. Viper, a nonprofit reptile rescue, brought an iguana, tortoises, snakes and tegu and shared how to care for reptiles and the importance of researching an animal before getting one as a pet. The Tidewater Kennel Club brought dogs and talked about the differences in dog breeds and shelter friend Loughan Campbell amazed campers with her dog’s tricks. Colonial Williamsburg’s experts introduced the historical aspects of sheep, chickens and oxen. K9s for Warriors visited some of the older children and talked about service animals and how they can make a life-changing difference helping people. A veteran visited with his dog, Cabo, who supports him with his PTSD.
Animal Camp 2023 was led by Kendell Thomas, Humane Education & Activities Manager at The Heritage Humane Society. Holding a degree in zoology and with a career filled with animal expertise, Thomas and the shelter’s staff and youth camp counselor volunteers were excited at the campers’ enthusiasm and inquisitive nature.
“We loved seeing many of our area’s youngest pet lovers have such a fun, hands-on summer Animal Camp season and we’re so grateful for the campers who spent part of their summer with us. They learned about all of the fantastic work The Heritage Humane Society team does to help animals in our community. We especially enjoyed having our special guests and animal advocates come visit to share their knowledge and passion,” says Kendell Thomas, Humane Education & Activities Manager at The Heritage Humane Society. “We even had a few adoptions! One of the campers learned all about rodents and adopted three sweet rats from the shelter. I really do think we inspired the next generation of animal advocates and professionals. All in all, it was a fun summer and I can’t wait for our future camps at Heritage Humane Society!”
In addition to the educational experience, children also enjoyed learning that their camp registration fees raised more than $30,000 for the shelter. They witnessed the funds going right back into their community.
Did a young animal lover in your life miss out?
The Heritage Humane Society is already planning ahead for its Winter Break Animal Camp. Visit the shelter’s online camp page to learn more. Between now and then, they can also experience The Heritage Humane Society by having their birthday party held there.
The Heritage Humane Society has 230 dogs, cats and small pets currently in their care. Adoptable pets are available to meet during The Heritage Humane Society’s visiting and adopting hours from 12 to 4:30 p.m., Tues. through Sun.
To learn more, visit HeritageHumane.org, call 757-221-0150, or visit The Heritage Humane Society located at 430 Waller Mill Rd, Williamsburg, VA 23185.
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