Most children can’t wait until their birthday because they want a party with lots of presents. Not Rachel Seymour-Newton. When she was about to turn nine years old, she told her mom she wanted her party to be used to raise money to save dogs.
“I heard about lot of dogs being abused and I wanted to help,” Seymour-Newton says.
Since then, all of her birthday parties have focused on raising money for Friends Forever Rescue. Friends and family are asked to donate dog food or money instead of giving Rachel presents.
At one of those parties, the Seymour- Newtons brought in puppies for the children to play with and the guests left with photos of themselves playing with the puppies. At another party, guests were told to bring their family pet and, for a $30 donation, mom Jaime Seymour-Newton, who is a photographer, would take portraits of the pooch.
The birthday parties have raised several thousand dollars. Party guests have also donated many, many bags of food to feed rescued dogs.
Rachel will be 13 years old on Sept. 11 and she and her mom are working on the biggest fundraiser yet. “We’re going to try to do something really big,” Jaime Seymour-Newton says.
“We’re having some of her friends and their parents come to this meeting and help make it big and different.”
They also have a meeting scheduled with Mayor Cindy Lerner to talk about where the event should be held.
At the same time, Rachel Seymour- Newton is working on the service project that is part of the tradition when a child has her bat or bar mitzvah.
“I’m going to do something with the dogs for that as well,” she says
By the way, Rachel Seymour-Newton hasn’t been satisfied with just raising money. She has also taken in dogs and helped train them. The dogs eventually are adopted by other families.
“We have fostered 20 dogs in the past few years,” Jaime Seymour-Newton says. “We do one or two at a time. It’s a gift for us as well. I’ve learned a lot from my daughter. It’s been very rewarding for us as a family and for the dogs.”
In a twist of roles, Rachel has been teaching her mom how to let go of the foster puppies when they are adopted.
“My mom gets attached,” Rachel says.
“We all have to let them go. We can’t keep every dog.”
They usually foster puppies because the family pooch doesn’t like bigger dogs invading his home.
“We have had one dog since August, Billy the Kidd, he’s the biggest mush ball,” Rachel says. “We think he’s a lab rottie mix. His brother looks like a rottie, and he looks like a lab.”
She is especially concerned about the puppy because he is a black lab.
“People don’t like to adopt the black dogs because they think they are scarier and meaner,” Rachel Seymour-Newton says.
One of the reasons she loves to help out at the animal shelter is because of the love and affection she gets from the dogs. She says they will give that same love and affection to the family that adopts them. “Most of the dogs at the shelter are used to being abused and they’ll try to please you,” she says. “They were abused, so they try to be nice.”
Seymour-Newton has also started the Friends Forever Dog Club. Members volunteer at the Friends Forever shelter to get the dogs ready for their showings at Pet Smart on Southwest 136th Street and South Dixie Highway.
For information, go to www.friendsforeverevents.com/landing.
— By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld