Animal shelters offer place to have birthday party with a bigger purpose

Just days after her seventh at-home birthday party, my daughter Kara started plotting the next year’s party: at a pet shelter. For the next several months, she was unwavering, often reminding me, “Don’t forget I want my party at a pet shelter.”

Having no idea if such a party even existed, I looked up the Naperville Area Humane Society to see if they might at least offer a tour of the facility. Navigating the NAHS website, I felt like I struck gold when I found a link for “Birthday Parties.”

Terri Hancock, humane education specialist, helped me plan my daughter’s party. For a donation to the shelter, the kids received a lesson in humane education. This included how to behave around animals, the best way to care for pets and why it is important to have compassion for animals. Then we went on a “behind the scenes” tour.

The highlight for Kara was when we were allowed into the cat rooms and dog runs. Kara, and any of her friends who wanted to, were able to hold a cat. In the dog room, we read the names of the breeds and background information about the dogs while Terri gave them treats.

After the tour, we spread out tablecloths and ate the pizza I ordered from a nearby pizzeria, picnic style. Much like a traditional party, cake and presents followed. Unlike a traditional party, some of the presents were cat beds and dog toys for the animals of the shelter. Kara is now counting down to her 10th birthday-the age she can start volunteering at the shelter.

Lisa Swan lives in Bartlett

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