Giving Dogs and Love to Kids With Cancer | Reader's Digest

Giving Dogs and Love to Kids With Cancer

The Stink Bug Project pairs dogs from the Colorado Correctional Industries Prison Trained K9 Companion Program with families battling childhood cancer.

By Natalie van der Meer from Reader's Digest | March 2011
Giving Dogs and Love to Kids With Cancer© 2011 Tamara Reynolds

Our hero: Allison Winn, 10

Where she lives: Denver, Colorado

How she helps: Gives dogs to kids with cancer

When Allison Winn was eight and her family adopted a dog named Coco, they had no idea how much the little bichon frise would change her life. “Coco helped me feel better,” says Allison, who was recuperating from 14 months of treatment for a brain tumor at the time. “She would cuddle with me when I didn’t want to play.” Allison loved Coco so much that she told her parents she wanted to help other sick kids find the same kind of comfort.

She started small, raising money by selling lemonade and homemade dog biscuits in front of her house. Her first customer was the mailman. By the end of that summer, she had raised nearly $1,000, enough to adopt, train, and spay or neuter two dogs and give them to children with cancer. Now, a little more than two years later, corporate groups and civic organizations gather to make dog treats at a Denver kitchen for Allison’s cause.

Her organization, the Stink Bug Project, named after a picture she drew commemorating the end of her chemotherapy, is run and managed in partnership with the Morgan Adams Foundation. Stink Bug helps families adopt pets from the Colorado Correctional Industries Prison Trained K9 Companion Program, where inmates teach commands to rescued dogs. To date, the program has raised $33,000 and facilitated the adoption of ten dogs, paying for the $450 adoption fee plus a starter kit of a dog bed and crate, food, toys, a leash, and a collar, which gets embroidered with the pet’s name and phone number. “We ask the kids their favorite color,” Allison says, so she can coordinate ribbons for the dogs.

With the leftover funds, Allison’s mother, Dianna Litvak, who helps run Stink Bug, hopes to extend the pet-adoption program statewide and continue donating some of the proceeds to help fund pediatric cancer research.

Her daughter is just as ambitious. “I wanted to do a million adoptions, but my mom made me lower it,” says Allison. Still, she’d eventually like to get dogs to sick kids in other states.

“Allison has figured out how to help—in a way that no one else has,” Litvak says proudly. “We involve her younger sister, Emily, her friends, the adopting families, and the women at the prison. It took the love of a little girl to wrap all that together into one amazing package.”

Go to stinkbugproject.org to donate or to buy Allison’s dog biscuits.

Know a local hero? Visit American Towns to submit your nomination: americantowns.com/powerofone.

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