It's always a good feeling when your actions help someone in need.
That's what Kira Kuehner and Alivia Paules, both 11, found out when they decided to help fill the shelves of local food pantries with pet food.
The two Lehighton Middle School students learned about a food drive that the Mahoning Valley Animal Hospital was holding. The items being distributed to food pantries across the county were not typical. Instead of asking for donations of "people" food, the animal hospital was asking for donations of dog and cat food.
Brenda Richards, veterinary assistant at Mahoning Valley Animal Hospital, explained that food pantries do not receive funding for animal food, so they decided to help families who utilize the pantries and have pets by raising donations for the animals.
"Families are happy that they can choose pet food," she said. "Right now, people need that and animals need that too. It's sad when an animal is displaced because the family can't afford a bag of food. This drive helps a dog or cat stay in a loving home instead of going to a shelter."
To obtain the donations, the girls decided to hold a joint birthday sleepover; and instead of presents, they asked their friends to bring a bag of pet food.
On Dec. 29, Kuehner and Paules, as well as 10 of their friends, celebrated their birthdays by bringing 102.5 pounds of dog food, which their parents dropped off at the animal hospital.
Kira and Alivia both said that they were happy that they were able help the animals and hope that it will help other families.
"We're both pet lovers," Kira added, as she sat with her dog, a Labradoodle named Doodle. Doodle was rescued from a puppy mill last year and adopted by the Kuehners through Dr. Mary Lombardo of the Mahoning Valley Animal Hospital.
Alivia's mom, Sherry, also noted that this isn't the first time her daughter has helped animals through donations.
When she was 7 years old, she asked for pet food for her birthday and donated it to the county cat and dog shelters.
Kira's mom, Evalynn, said that she hopes the girls' will inspire others to help those less fortunate.
Kira and Alivia would like to thank their friends for their generosity and urge everyone to donate to worthy causes because you never know when you will be in need.
Kira is the daughter of Dennis and Evalynn Kuehner of Lehighton. Alivia is the daughter of Sherry and Tom Paules of Lehighton.
The Mahoning Valley Animal Hospital is still collecting dog and cat food, even though it has exceeded its 250-pound goal.
Richards said that the pet food donation collection will be an ongoing effort.
Anyone who wishes to donate a bag of dog or cat food can drop it off at Mahoning Valley Animal Hospital, 2967 Blakeslee Blvd. Drive West, Andreas, during office hours, which are 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday; and 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., Saturday.