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Yukon girl celebrates Christmas with donations

Each Christmas, children expect gifts from family and Santa Claus, but Jaidyn Raley expects something else.

Jaidyn Raley sits with the food she collected in her bi-annual pet food drive. The 11-year-old has been collecting supplies and food for Pets and People for the past six years in lieu of birthday and Christmas gifts. Photo/Courtesy

For the past six years, instead of asking for gifts on her birthday and Christmas, Jaidyn has asked for donations to Pets and People. Forefeiting items and toys she may want, Jaiden seems to get the most joy in assisting animals in need.

The 10-year-old Yukon resident has developed a passion for animals handed down from her parents, Larissa and Matt Raley.

While volunteering at the animal shelter, Jaidyn asked her parents where the food came from. When her mother revealed that the food arrived by way of donation, she saw her opportunity to help.

“We started posting on our Facebook page for homeowners and personal Facebook page,” Larissa Raley said. “Family, friends, even the ones that don’t live here would mail us checks.”

Jaidyn made sure this wasn’t just a one-time event. She’s been substituting presents for donations since she was five years old. She shows her love for pets throughout the year by walking her four dogs at home and volunteering at Pets and People.

“It’s good to see she’s so compassionate,” said Larissa. “That she is thinking of others, other than herself. Her aunt in Florida is a vet so she wants to be a vet just like her.

“She makes us proud because she’ll say, ‘let’s go walk animals,’ and it’ll be 6:30 and raining and snowing but she’ll be ready to walk animals.”

Jaidyn’s story is one of many that have popped up in the Yukon area recently.

Just a month ago, six-year-old Rason Bentley started a gofundme page to raise money for the shelter. He gained nearly $500 and filled the lobby with toys, blankets and food. It was how he celebrated his birthday.

Eleven-year-old Josie had a similar idea to that of Jaiden, swapping out Christmas presents for food donations.

A local eleven-year-old, Josie, is one of the many recent Yukon children to donate to Pets and People. Josie asked for pet food in lieu of Christmas gifts. Photo/Courtesy

This recent giving swing has come to the amazement of Pets and People employees.

“The kids are just so generous,” said volunteer and longtime board member Edy Bauer. “It’s got to be something that the parents are teaching them. Most of the kids that donate also come out and walk the dogs, visit with the kitties.

“They’re volunteers also, the next generation of Pets and People volunteers.”

The donations don’t come lightly either. Pets and People relies on food donations to remain in business.

“Every bag of food that walks in saves us $10 or $20 that we could use to help another animal that’s in need,” Bauer said. “Save another one, rescue another life and be able to afford the medical care for them. Every bit of this enables us to do what we do. We’re very dependent on the public and donors for their generosity.”

Pets and People needs the contributions of donors like Jaidyn. With as much joy as it gives her, she may keep it up for years to come.

“She beams when we go to Walmart and get the dog and cat food. She’s so happy to be able to fill that shopping cart. You would think she was at a toy store getting toys but it’s just cat and dog food,” Larissa said.

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