A lot of local dogs and cats will enjoy some good meals thanks to the continued efforts of Scituate High School student Jenna Birkevaag.
Five years ago, Jenna started the “Luna’s Cat and Dog Can Food Challenge,” and it is only getting bigger.
The premise of the challenge, named for Jenna’s golden retriever, is for Scituate students to bring in a can of cat or dog food to be donated to the Scituate Animal Shelter. A good-natured contest pits classrooms against each other to see which class can donate the most cans. Initially, this fun rivalry was between the Jenkins – Jenna’s elementary school – to the Gates Middle School, where she was enrolled when she started the drive.
This year, Jenna challenged all the Scituate Elementary Schools to donate cans, and it was the easiest drive yet, she said.
“All the elementary kids were so engaged. They were great on getting the word out and helping us get boxes for each classroom," she said.
The total number of cans collected from this drive was 2,026, and the winning school was Cushing.
Once the food drive is over, Jenna’s parents, Mary and David, match the amount of cans that were raised by the students. The match brings this year’s total donation to the Scituate Animal Shelter to 4,052 cans of dog and cat food.
Maryann Regan, executive director of the Scituate Animal Shelter, extended her “deep and sincere appreciation regarding all of this support that has created an amazing end result of thousands of cans and more.”
“Jenna’s leadership to make this so successful and the collaboration among all is truly heartwarming,” Regan said. “I cannot say enough about the gratitude we feel here at SAS. Her hard work and dedication has helped animals in our care and beyond possibly more than she might know.”
The Scituate Animal Shelter will use this food to feed its shelter animals, assist people who need a bit of help providing for their pets, and provide some of the food to the South Shore Pet Food Pantry.
This end result is exactly what keeps Jenna motivated with the can drive.
“The Scituate Animal Shelter is a no-kill shelter that always takes in any animal that needs help,” she said. “They are always so grateful for the support we give them. Just knowing I am making a difference to all these amazing animals that need our help makes me just want to keep on doing more.”
Jenna’s parents remain involved knowing they are making a difference through Jenna's act of kindness.
“Seeing her being creative on how she tackles the drive each year gets us excited,” David Birkevaag said. “You can see how she looks forward to each year and is always trying to make it better. She is already thinking about next year and is talking to her cousins, Mac and Wes, about taking it over when she leaves for college in two years.”
Jenna came up with the idea for the can drive six years ago after watching a commercial about animals needing homes.
“I asked my parents if we could adopt another dog. They said no, but they said they would support me if I could come up with another idea," she said. "I decided that all these animals need food and if I could get my friends at school to help out then we could make a difference.”
Jenna gets excited being able to talk to the kids at the elementary schools, she said. And her parents enjoy seeing the kids so excited and empowered knowing they can make a difference.
Highlights of the drive this year, for Jenna, included hearing the different stories from the students.
“One boy used his allowance to pay for the cat and dog food he donated,” she said. “Another boy wrote a letter on challenging his whole class to bring in cans. Hearing the excitement from all the kids and having them understand they make a difference has been so inspiring.”
Both Jenna and her parents love the look on the faces of the staff at the animal shelter when they see the amount of food that is being delivered.
As for Luna, she is doing great at 9 years old, Jenna said.
“She is amazing and still thinks she’s a puppy. She is my best friend and sleeps in my bed every night.”
This has been the best food drive for the Scituate Animal Shelter ever, Regan said.
“All the students in the Scituate elementary schools should be very proud of what they helped to accomplish.”
Jenna and her family said they would like to give a shout out to Nona’s, Dribbles, Creyo and Scituate Cinemas for donating prizes for the winning classrooms and the winning students from each school. They also thanked Pet Smart for its support.
Follow Ruth Thompson on Twitter @scituateruth