Gone to the Dogs

For the big One-Oh, Maggie Strandquist of Arnold said no to presents for herself and yes to presents for the animals at the SPCA of Anne Arundel County.
    “I didn’t think I needed anything, so I thought who else needed things,” Maggie reports. “I love animals and really wanted to help them, so I thought of the SPCA.”
    Maggie was quick to think of the SPCA because she and a friend had already organized a Girl Scout walkathon at Quiet Waters Park to benefit the animal shelter.
    Maggie was sure about her decision, but her parents needed convincing that she was convinced.
    “Her younger twin siblings’ birthdays are a week later, and their presents were coming in around the same time of Maggie’s birthday,” says Karen Strandquist, Maggie’s mom. “So we kept asking are you sure?
    “But she never looked back and taught the whole family a good lesson.”
    Maggie’s class in compassion extended to 12 friends, whose party included a link to www.aacspca.org/wishlist to start their search for the purr-fect gift.
    “It could be an expense or a non-expense since some of the asked-for items were small, like newspapers and towels,” Strandquist says.
    Shopping must have been fun, because presents piled in.
    “When we opened everything, all the toys, blankets and food wouldn’t fit on our gift table anymore,” Maggie reported.
    The party continued with animal-inspired activities. Guests decorated birdhouses and made bird feeders from pinecones. For dogs, they baked biscuits made from wheat, milk and peanut butter.
    Maggie’s favorite part of her birthday celebration was delivering the presents to the SPCA.
    “When we visited the animals, they had beds, food and water bowls and some toys, but they didn’t have a lot,” Maggie said. “So it feels really great to put a little sunshine in their space since they probably don’t get 100 percent of the love other animals do.”
    “The level of giving of Maggie and others like her seems to be happening more and more,” said Sue Beatty, executive director of Anne Arundel SPCA.
    Donations of time are also accepted at the SPCA, which sponsors a parent-teen volunteer program for ages 13 to 18. Teens 18 and older can volunteer at the shelter independently.
    “Quite a few pairs of teen volunteers and their parents come in to walk dogs and socialize cats, which the animals love,” Beatty said.
    When Maggie reaches that milestone, she’s looking forward to working for the SPCA so she can help the animals in an even more direct way. Aquatic animals are her favorites, and she dreams of becoming a marine biologist at an aquarium.

Leading the Pack

    Maggie’s dedication to helping others seems to be a rising trend among American youth, according to Michael Nilsen, spokesman for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
    “Technology has made it easier for kids to learn of the challenges and opportunities out there, so even if it’s simple acts like recycling or mentoring, kids are really getting involved,” Nilsen said.
    The increase in involvement hasn’t gone unnoticed. Like SPCA, charities are creating positions and programs for young people rather than patronizing them.
    “Kids have seen they can make an impact,” Nilsen said. “So philanthropy becomes a way of life.”
    Maggie proves his point. This was the first year of donating to the SPCA, but it was not her first community service. She began by serving lunches at the Lighthouse Shelter with her Girl Scout troop, moved to supporting the SPCA and now is thinking about joining with her older sister to donate to kids in Africa.
    Also planning to get involved in helping is best friend Haley Boosinger, who has discussed with Maggie creating a safe shelter for stray animals to play and live.
    This kind of behavior isn’t out of the ordinary for her daughter, mom Karen Strandquist says.
    “Maggie is our animal and environment lover,” she says. “She makes us stop to pick trash out of the water when we canoe and is always talking about animals. She’s going to change the world.”

    Planning on donating to the SPCA? Call ahead so a photographer can shoot a picture of you and your gifts for the organization’s newsletter: 410-268-4388.