Monday and Tuesday night some of the world’s most pampered dogs strutted their stuff at the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Monday afternoon I spent time with a young woman whose love of dogs does not mean watching the canine elite but rather helping animals whose owners may struggle just to keep them in kibble.

Alice McKnight, 13, a seventh-grader at Bend’s Rimrock Expeditionary Alternative Learning Middle School (REALMS), is in the midst of a project that will, when completed, have seen at least 50 “goodie” bags go to homeless men and women and their dogs. The bags will include the sorts of things that make a dog’s life a bit more comfortable.

McKnight is growing up in a home with two dogs, an Aussie and a heeler, who have been with the family since she was not much more than a toddler. She loves them both. And when she noticed some homeless people in the community also have dogs, she began to wonder how people who are struggling to provide for their own needs can also provide for their dogs.

Then she heard about Awesome Bend, the local chapter of the Awesome Foundation. The group has a quarterly pitch night, in which it invites the public to listen to presentations from a small number of applicants with ideas to improve the world.

McKnight applied. She was one of five (two groups and three individuals) invited to make her pitch just about a month ago. She won the audience participation portion of the evening, earning nearly $400 donated by audience members in the process.

She also won Awesome Bend’s contribution, $1,000 raised in $100 donations by the group’s 10-person board of directors.

And then she did something that many doers of good deeds might not consider. She gave away about a third of what she’s raised.

The reason was simple, she said. She knew what her Canine Care Kits would cost, and she knew she had just been given more than she needed. Rather than expand her own project, she opted to help a young woman who will make blankets for cancer patients, because, she says, when her grandfather was ill a similar gift was so important to her grandmother.

As for the Canine Care Kits, McKnight finished her shopping earlier this week.

She has reusable shopping bags large enough to hold everything she plans to put in them. She has foam sleeping pads for the animals, dog dishes, slip leashes (collar and leash combined), food and treats. And, thanks to a donation from Ruffwear, she has collapsible water bowls.

By now, I suspect, she’s about ready to begin distribution.

She’ll start at the Bend Community Center on NE Fifth Street on Sunday, during its Keep Them Warm program that distributes clothing, camping gear, food and other necessities. Those with dogs who want kits can get them there.

Too, she plans to work with Central Oregon Veterans Outreach to assure that vets and their pets also get the assistance they need.

As wonderful as this is — and I think it’s pretty wonderful to want to improve the lives of companion animals who may be the only real companions their owners have — it’s not McKnight’s first adventure in good works.

When she’s not busy skiing, she works at Family Kitchen with a group of teens who weekly help get food ready for cooking. She’s volunteered for cleanup projects at Deschutes Land Trust. And she’s a busy young seventh-grader, blessed with a beautiful smile.

Like people much older than she is, McKnight knows this about her efforts at community service:

“I like the feeling that you get afterward, that you helped the world, or the environment,” she says.

So do I, Alice. I also know that with young people like you in the world, the help will keep on coming.

— Janet Stevens is deputy editor of The Bulletin. Contact 541-617-7821 or jstevens@bendbulletin.com

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