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North teacher inspires teens to ‘give back’ to community through Walkathon

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TribLocal Aurora
By Linda Kane, A.D.O.P.T. volunteer
April 13, 2011

Walkathon participants and spectators will see big dogs, little dogs, dogs of all sizes and shapes. “It’s amazing how all the dogs get along with each other,” said fifth-year participant Rick Kerley. “The whole community seems to open its arms to all the dogs and all the people” (photo courtesy of A.D.O.P.T. Pet Shelter).

The logic is indisputable.

The mascot is the Huskie; the cheering section is the Dawg Pound; the club is the Alpha Dawgs; the sponsor is a Huskie alumna.

How logical, then, that the club would choose a service project dealing with animals, specifically dawgs, er dogs.

“It just makes sense since our name is Dawg Pound and our mascot is the Huskie,” said Kristen Gamble, Naperville North High School science teacher, about her involvement with Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment’s (A.D.O.P.T.’s) annual Walkathon.

“Makin’ Strides for Strays,” A.D.O.P.T.’s 18th annual Walkathon for homeless animals, steps off Sunday, May 1 at 8:30 a.m. from Naperville’s 5th Avenue Station.

Gamble, herself the “mom” of two rescued dogs and a cat, became involved several years ago as a single walker. But about two years ago, she decided to get her Alpha Dawgs, students that is, involved.

Last year, about four Alpha Dawgs club members walked with her to raise money, and she says “even more are involved this year; it’s growing every year.”

Gamble, whose family has always fostered and adopted dogs through Naperville’s A.D.O.P.T. Pet Shelter, says she began by raising money in her science classes every spring. “My classes compete against each other,” she said. “The class that wins gets a pizza party.”

From there, Gamble and one of her students took the idea to Alpha Dawgs, North’s pep club that she sponsors. “The kids just loved [the idea],” she said. “They took it on and decided that’s what they wanted our club to do.

“It’s not a necessary thing that all clubs have a service project, but most of the clubs at North do. We decided this would be ours.”

Gamble, who “will do anything [she] can for animals,” says the “human” Alpha Dawgs will kick off their fundraising week on April 18 by placing donation bins for loose change in every North classroom and “hyping up their website.”

In the meantime, club members are making and selling bracelets that say “NNHS DAWGS for DOGS.”

At press time, Gamble said the organization had raised at least $300, but added, “We’re looking to bring in $1,500.

“I tell my kids all the time that humans can go out and make their money, and they can ask for help, and they can ask for assistance, but these animals can’t. All they have is the kindness of people who take it upon themselves to raise money for them.”

Gamble says she loves seeing all the people walking down the street with dogs. “The beginning (of the Walkathon) is really cool,” she said. “There are all these people with dogs taking over all the streets.

It’s just so great to see all the little kids light up when they see the animals walking through the streets.”

Gamble, who works two jobs in addition to teaching full time, coaching and sponsoring the Alpha Dawgs, says that if she went to volunteer at A.D.O.P.T., “she’d want to take [all the animals] home.

“It’s my way of helping,” she said, “without putting myself into a position where I’d just dig myself into a big hole.”

And the dawgs, er DOGS (and cats) appreciate it.

For more information about the May 1 Walkathon, go to www.adoptpetshelter.org.

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