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A.D.O.P.T. teaches kindness, compassion, respect for animals

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Naperville TribLocal
Linda Kane, A.D.O.P.T. volunteer
July 7, 2011
Madison Beja, 8, enjoys the interaction with animals at A.D.O.P.T.’s summer camp. “She’s a little in love with cats,” says mom Heather Beja (photo courtesy of D. Picard).

When Miranda and Madison Beja and Alyssa Hopping return to school this fall, they’ll have plenty to tell their friends about “how they spent their summer vacation.”

Miranda, 13; Madison, 8; and Alyssa, 12, will soon spend a week of their summer vacation at one of A.D.O.P.T.’s (Animals Deserving of Proper Treatment’s) Summer Day Camps.

Mom Heather Beja says the A.D.O.P.T. camp is the “first thing they ask for every year.”

And mom Robyn Hopping says she would “absolutely” recommend the camp to friends.

In its second summer, “Camp Paws and Claws” is a “fun-filled animal-themed summer camp for kids,” according to the A.D.O.P.T. website,

“We’re trying to actively involve kids in the shelter,” said volunteer Donna Picard, who serves the shelter as Humane Education Coordinator. “We realize that the future of animal welfare is in the children. We need to teach kids kindness, compassion and respect for animals.”

Picard, who also coordinates children’s birthday parties at the shelter, says the camps stress interacting with the animals, learning about responsible pet ownership and giving back to one’s community.

“We’re trying to do our part to educate,” Picard said. “It’s a fun time. We try to involve them in activities, reading and crafts. We try to provide a variety of experiences.”

Miranda, soon to be an eighth grader, enjoys the camp.

“We get to learn about the animals and how to take care of them,” Miranda said. “We make a lot of crafts. One day we made treats for the animals!”

Miranda’s mom Heather says her older daughter “has tossed around the idea of being a veterinarian.

“She’s like the ‘dog and cat whisperer’ with animals,” Heather said. “They just love her.”

Miranda agrees.

“I love taking care of animals and helping them feel better,” she said. “I try to help my dogs and cats when they’re sick.”

Alyssa, too, says she loves “hanging out with the dogs and the cats.” And when she gets older, she “wants to volunteer at A.D.O.P.T.”

Picard said because the maximum participants in a session is 15, the counselors can break kids into small groups and do lots of hands-on activities and visuals.

“We need to teach kids in a really fun way so they understand the real issues in animal welfare,” she said. “because 20 years from now, it’s going to be up to them.”

One such issue, Picard said, is the lifelong commitment of responsible pet ownership—providing food, water, training and medical care—so fewer animals end up in shelters.

“We usually get to go to the operating room,” Alyssa said. “They’ve shown us worms [that can be found in sick dogs]. I was the only girl who said, ‘Oh, that’s so cool.’”

In addition, camp counselors emphasize topics like the importance of spaying/neutering and the need for volunteerism.

Miranda and Madison’s mother especially appreciates the session, “Lending a Hand,” which stresses giving back to the community.

“I want the girls to grow up and say, ‘This is what you do in life,’” Heather said. “’‘You don’t just sit around in front of the TV or video games. You DO something with your life; you’re involved. You’re giving back to the community that you’re living in.’”

Animals are a big part of both the Beja and the Hopping families: The Bejas have four dogs, two cats and one fish; the Hoppings have two dogs. Both families have adopted pets from A.D.O.P.T.

“I could have 20 dogs running around my house, and it wouldn’t bother me,” said Heather who grew up with dogs.

Picard says the ultimate goal is to expand the program with time and resources.

“We want kids to want to come to the shelter,” she said. “We want kids to learn about what we do, the animals we help, and how they can make a difference…because you know kids CAN make a difference.”

Camp Paws & Claws
at A.D.O.P.T. Pet Shelter
420 Industrial Drive, Naperville

  • Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Ages 9-13 offered July 25-29 OR Aug. 8-12.
  • Ages 5-8 offered Aug. 1-5.
  • Cost is $150/week.
  • For further information, email

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