Belding pupils create pet care bags for dogs and cats up for adoption

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 9:39 am on Monday, April 02, 2012

BELDING— For the last three weeks, it’s been all about cats and dogs at Ellis Elementary School in Belding.

Six-year-old Ellis Elementary kindergartener Kirsten Antcliff chooses a dog toy to put in her pet care bag for the West Michigan Pet Expo this weekend. - Daily News/Cory Smith

Pupils in kindergarten, second grade and special education classes have been working with the Safe Haven Humane Society of Ionia to prepare more than 70 pet care bags for the seventh annual Michigan Pet Expo at the Deltaplex Arena today and Sunday in Grand Rapids.

Students have prepared the bags with educational books, toys, treats and personal letters for new owners to take home with them if they decide to adopt a pet at this weekend’s expo. More than 70 dogs will be up for adoption, along with 12 cats.

“Anyone who adopts from the Safe Haven Humane Society will get one of these bags,” Ellis kindergarten teacher Renee Gillespie said. “We do it as an incentive to help the animals get adopted.”

Gillespie said the project has been very beneficial to the more than 100 students involved, teaching them basic skills as well as getting them more involved in the community.

“We’re tying in curriculums like math, science and language arts into the individual projects,” she said. “It makes a lot of connections between the community and the kids. The kids just love it, especially making the cookies.”

Six-year-old Ellis Elementary kindergartener Max McCarty takes a moment to choose which books to place in his pet care bag for the West Michigan Pet Expo this weekend.

The cookie-shaped dog treats were made at the school by the students with help from the faculty.

For 8-year-old second grader Kyle Gillespie, making the dog treats was his favorite part of the project, but for an unusual reason.

“It was fun to make them, but I also ate a couple of them,” he said. “They tasted really good, so that was my favorite part.”

Renee Gillespie, who is also Kyle’s mother, said the treats were made of peanut butter and were safe to consume.

For 5-year-old kindergartner Ava Ward, it was working on the coloring books that put a smile on her face.

“My favorite thing was making the books,” she said. “I like to color sometimes and the books are going to the people who are getting dogs and cats. It makes me happy.”

Renee Gillespie said the project is in its third consecutive year, but funding for the program, which came from service learning grants, has since been cut. Without outside assistance next year, she is unsure if the project will make it to a fourth year.

“We’re going to have to find ways, we’re going to have to do more letter writing and campaigning to get service learning money, because there is none now,” she said. “At a time where the money is getting less and less, we’re trying to do more. Many people can’t afford to feed and care for a pet anymore.”

Cost for the expo is $6 for adults and $4 for children. For more information check


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