Clarksville teen's love of animals leads to $1,500 gift to Ellicott City shelter

jjoyner@baltsun.com

Thirteen-year-old Aidan Hennessy of Clarksville has known for some time that he wants to be a veterinarian one day. His passion for animals is reflected not only in his love of the family cat, Rocket, but in the easy way he bonds with animals he meets for the first time.

It was no surprise, then, that when it came time for Aidan to perform a community service project related to his Bar Mitzvah, he chose something that would benefit animals as his project.

The Clarksville Middle School seventh-grader set a goal of raising $500 for Small Miracles, a no-kill animal shelter in Ellicott City. He created a poster, armed himself with knowledge about the shelter’s mission and went door-to-door in his neighborhood to solicit help.

“I just love animals,” Aidan said. “I wanted to do something for the community, and something that would help [animals] too.”

Aidan and his family came to Small Miracles this past Saturday to present the fruits of that labor — not the $500 he set as a goal, but an amount that exceeded the target three times over: $1,513.

“Oh wow,” said Moira Liskovec, founder and operator of Small Miracles, when Aidan’s family unveiled the amount. “That will definitely go to very good use.”

Liskovec opened the nonprofit Small Miracles in 2006, and has operated it from a facility on Baltimore National Pike since 2009. The shelter accepts animals from West Virginia — she was receiving some 30 dogs and a dozen or so cats over the weekend — and many of the animals require medical attention. One dog she was accepting was struck by a car and had a leg amputated; a cat already at the shelter had an eye that had to be removed, another needed surgery for a damaged ear.

“I try to help all the animals I can,” Liskovec said, “and especially those that need medical help.”

Aidan, a member of Columbia Jewish Congregation, had his Bar Mitzvah in December. Months ago, in preparation for the Jewish coming of age ritual, he considered a service project that would appeal to his interest and love of animals.

His mother, Deb Hennessy, said the family visited Small Miracles and were impressed with the work of the shelter. Aidan said his mind was made up immediately that the shelter would be the recipient of his project, though the family returned a few times — “so I could spend more time with the animals,” Aidan said.

His mother said that when Aidan set a target of raising $500, she thought “this is really a stretch goal.” But he threw himself into the effort, approaching neighbors throughout his community, setting up a display over several weekends at his synagogue and tapping friends and relatives for support. His father, Jeff Hennessy, and his brother Jordan, 11, a sixth-grader at Clarksville Middle, were supportive as well.

Deb Hennessy she felt people perceived Aidan’s empathy for animals — he even shared a poem he wrote about becoming a vet one day — and were “beyond generous” in response.

On Saturday, Aidan and his brother used the donation as an opportunity to spend time with Small Miracles’ latest guests. “I want to take him home,” Aidan said while playing with one feline resident of the shelter.

On its website, smallmiraclesrescue.org, the shelter says it has found homes for more than 10,000 cats since 2006 and more than 4,000 dogs since expanding its service in 2011 to include canines. The shelter operates with about 40 volunteers, the website says, and is funded through adoption fees and donations such as Aidan’s, as well as grant support by the Petco Foundation.

Liskovec said she hopes within the next two months to open another facility nearby that will offer low-cost spay and neutering services.

She said it’s encouraging to see youngsters embrace the mission to save abandoned and injured animals, and inspiring that Aidan might one day carry that interest into a career as a veterinarian.

“I hope he continues,” she said.

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