Oak Forest girl, 9, finds way to help animals
BY GINGER BRASHINGER Correspondent September 5, 2012 1:34PM
Katrina Vahl, of Oak Forest, holds a tree of cupcakes for her bake sale to benefit homeless animals at the TLC animal shelter in Homer Glen. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:03AM
Katrina Vahl, 9, of Oak Forest, is a problem-solver.
When the fourth-grader learned several years ago from her cousin, Krissi Scialabba, 24, that she couldn’t do volunteer work at the TLC Animal Shelter in Homer Glen, Vahl didn’t give up on the idea of helping in some way.
“This was probably the third summer in a row that she’s asked about volunteering,” Scialabba said. “She’s too young. She has to be 14.”
Vahl was determined to do something productive now rather than bide her time until she can volunteer.
Talk led to action, and Vahl and Scialabba came up with the idea of a fundraiser bake sale to benefit the shelter.
They got the word out through Facebook, online flyers, posters in the neighborhood and by enlisting the help of the “Bark for Your Park” supporters.
Vahl said some serious baking began on a Friday night and continued throughout Saturday, when her family, including her brother, Jimmy, 7, pitched in to help.
Between family and friends, the fundraiser offered up dozens of cookies and cupcakes, brownies and candies as part of the sweet fare for humans.
Two varieties of homemade dog biscuits were on sale for the “best friend” in any customer’s life.
Vahl’s cousin, Kelly Murray, 12, and her friend, Kaylin Volling, 9, pitched in all day at the fundraiser, giving up a precious end-of-the-summer Sunday to raise $313 in donations and sales, and a box of useful items for the animals at TLC.
Katrina was delighted with the outcome.
“I’d do it again,” she said.
It’s clear where her heart is.
“I’ve always wanted to be (a veterinarian) since I was little because I love handling animals and taking care of them,” Vahl said.
Noreen and Mike Vahl, Katrina’s parents, support their daughter’s passion, while making sure owning pets is a learning experience.
“I told her if you want these animals, you have to earn the money to take care of them,” Noreen said. “She definitely puts in the time with her animals.”
Katrina Vahl walks the family dog, Roxy, and cleans the dog run as part of her chores.
Her personal pet, a guinea pig named Peanut, requires weekly baths and cage cleaning, but Vahl doesn’t seem to mind.
“I spent most of my chore money, birthday money and Christmas money to get my guinea pig,” Vahl said.
She said Peanut cost her about $128, but the guinea pig is worth every penny.
“I like how she’s teaching me more responsibility because I’m the one who pays for her bedding and her food,” Vahl said.
Vahl shared some good advice for prospective pet owners that she learned at the Fierke Education Center through an animal advocacy club, Kindness Unleashed.
“Try to adopt an animal if you can or get one from a breeder,” Vahl said. “Don’t buy from a puppy mill.”
Vahl said she knows that people like having pets, but sometimes it’s not a good idea.
“If you don’t have time to take care of an animal properly, don’t buy it. Animals need love and care. They’re just like us,” Vahl said.