TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Dedicated and passionate, two words that sum up our youngest Jefferson Award Winner to date, Amelia Van Dalsem.
The 13-year-old Topeka girl loves animals — and we mean animals of all types.
Everything from your common cats and dogs, to rabbits, birds, mice, even rats!
“I love to pick them up, snuggle with them,” Amelia said while holding a rat close to her chest at Topeka’s animal shelter, the Helping Hands Humane Society.
The shelter is Amelia’s happy place, she’s been volunteering there since she was 10.
In that past three years, she’s logged over 700 volunteer hours.
An impressive number that not only shows her dedication but caught the attention of one of the shelters fellow volunteers.
“When I first met her I had no idea how old she was because I saw this incredible composed young lady,” Tonya Walsh said.
Tonya not only volunteers alongside Amelia at the shelter she also offers her services as a force-free dog trainer. That means when she trains dogs she doesn’t punish or harm them to get them to behave.
Tonya rarely allows anyone to help her run classes or train dogs, but Amelia’s the exception.
‘Because I can trust her, and I can trust her to never lose her temper, with humans, or dogs, because a lot of dog training is human training,” said Walsh.
Initially, this all started off as just something to do for Amelia, little did she know she would wind up helping herself.
You see Amelia can’t do a lot of the things most kids do her age.
She was born with a heart valve defect and a rare genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which causes her joints to ache and makes her feel exhausted all the time.
“Then over time I’ve been diagnosed with more and more things, so just recently I’ve been diagnosed with arthritis too,” Amelia said.
All of these health conditions have led to her being unable to play sports since it could be a problem if she overexerts herself.
Turns out playing with animals is not off-limits, “And also it’s a great way to exercise since I can’t really run or do those sort of things.”
Now I’m no doctor, but it sure seems like volunteering with the animals was just the medicine Amelia needed.
If you know someone like Amelia who deserves a Jefferson Award, don’t keep them a secret! Nominate them by clicking HERE.