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Sixth-grader receives award from SafeHaven for efforts on behalf of animals

It was said that Hanna James, of Seven Oak Middle School, received a standing ovation when she went up to receive her award at SafeHaven’s Pawscars event March 16.

The sixth-grader won the Youth Humane Hero award for her volunteer efforts to raise money and awareness for the humane society in Albany.

Photo courtesy of Ashley James
HANNA staffs a donation booth for SafeHaven during a showing of “The Secret Life of Pets,” hosted by Laura Gillott Keller-Williams at Kuhn Cinema.

Pawscars is an annual event which highlights the importance of spaying and neutering, and raises funds for the organization, said Brittany Hartsfield, development coordinator at the shelter. This was the second year the event was used to recognize people and animals in the community who are making an impact in animal welfare.

Hanna started fund-raising last year, and requested pet food and toys for SafeHaven in lieu of presents on her birthday and Christmas, said Amber James, Hanna’s mother. They estimate Hanna raises about $400 a year in donations.

“Each season and on my birthday I do a fund-raiser for SafeHaven, and I’ll go around the neighborhood with fliers,” Hanna said.

Her story begins when she was about 5 years old.

The James family would occasionally visit SafeHaven, back when it was located in a small, run-down building on Highway 34, Amber said. At one point, Hanna fell in love with two dogs, Annie and Edgar.

As they pondered whether they should perhaps adopt Annie, Hanna realized she wouldn’t get to keep Edgar.

“I was sad because we had to leave Edgar there, so I brought in money to get Edgar something special,” Hanna said.

On the bright side, they learned that Edgar had already been adopted, but Amber said that experience broke Hanna’s heart. She’d scraped together all she had in her piggy bank and put it in a shoe box for SafeHaven.

“That’s kind of how she started getting the warm and fuzzies for rescue pets,” Amber said.

Today, Hanna enjoys taking photographs of the family pet, Annie, and is raising a bunny for 4-H.

As the humane society started preparing for the 2018 Pawscars, nominations began rolling in and the event coordinators chose the winners.

“Hanna won by a milestone,” Hartsfield said. “We loved reading Hanna’s story and we were inspired by her passion in animal welfare. Once we read it at the event, the audience really was taken aback and really impressed by her.”

Hanna keeps her award on a shelf in her bedroom. It likely wouldn’t surprise anyone to hear some of the ideas she has for her future.

“I kind of want to start my own animal shelter to help strays, or a vet maybe. I don’t know; something with animals.”