ONTARIO — Drake Meyer, 17, of Fruitland, has always been motivated to lend a helping hand.
As an only child, since he was a toddler, Meyer helped his mother in anyway he could. Diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy at age 9, his mother was in her first wheelchair at 16. Meyer would help his mother daily by “getting stuff for her, doing dishes, feeding her and giving her drinks.”
And although his mother had to move to a care facility in Emmett three to four years ago, he tries to visit her as often as possible.
Rather than be sad about the distance between he and his mother, Meyer said he was OK with it.
“Where she is now is really good for her. … All that matters to me is that she’s happy,” he said.
Meyer likes to see others be happy as well, which is why he finds volunteering at Ani-Care Animal Shelter so rewarding.
The Fruitland High School student said one of the biggest give-backs about volunteering at the Ontario shelter is seeing the dogs get a home.
“Seeing them have a family that they love, seeing that they’re happy by the wag of their tail, and the people’s faces are happy, too,” Meyer said. “And them going home to an actual home instead of staying in a kennel, that’s heartwarming for me. It’s what I really like to see.”
He’s been volunteering at the shelter since about August. Finding out the shelter needed volunteers was easy, because his grandmother, Kim Hansen, is one of three co-directors there.
And as the business is all-volunteer ran, she appreciates every volunteer.
“Right now, we’re a little short-handed, because we’re not able to pay anybody to come out,” she said.
And there are a small handful of other youths from around the Western Treasure Valley, who also spend time on the weekend volunteering.
“The kids come and clean and feed and sanitize the shelter, which is just so helpful,” Hansen said.
Volunteers also walk and play with the dogs, she said, adding that is why it’s so important that there’s more than one volunteer at a time at the shelter.
The shelter currently houses 47 dogs, which sometimes means, by the time cleaning is done, the day is over, she said.
Shortly after hearing his grandmother needed help, Meyer got his driver license, and he’s been going over to help out ever since.
“I love it there,” he said.
He spends his Saturday and Sunday mornings at the shelter, cleaning out kennels, and helping other volunteers with feeding and walking the dogs. After the hard work is done, Meyer said, he sticks around until closing, during which time he continues interacting with the dogs, and enjoys “how happy they are” when seeing them interacting with people who come look at them.
In addition to volunteering giving him personal fulfillment, Meyer is hopeful that it will look good when he’s applying for colleges.
And he encourages other individuals looking to volunteer to do so.
“It’s a good idea. It’s good experience and gets you into the right path to understand how to talk with customers,” he said.
It also teaches youths to give back, Hansen said.
“Our society is kind of short-sighted right now, we don’t think of taking care of kids or elderly — and the animals, of course, are always in that group, she said. On the other hand, volunteering “teaches them to be kind, considerate and good people. And not just to be out for a buck.”
Hansen added that she thinks as a society we’ve gotten “too far away from helping each other out.”
Volunteering has left a positive impact on her grandson.
“I like helping people and making them smile,” Meyer said.
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