PHOTO: For her eighth birthday, Keziah McQuillen of Monticello asked her friends to donate toys and treats for the Animal Welfare Foundation. Last week, Keziah delivered the gifts to Kelly Day, president of AWF. (Photo submitted)
By Kim Brooks, Express Editor
For one little girl’s eighth birthday, it was extra special in more ways than one. Instead of receiving, she gave back.
Keziah McQuillen of Monticello has the right idea. For her birthday this year, so close to Christmas, she sent out invitations to her party with a dog pictured on the front, asking her friends to bring animal treats, toys and goodies to be donated to the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF).
“I really didn’t need anything because I’ll get presents at Christmas,” she said matter-of-factly.
Just sitting down and visiting with Keziah, it’s quite obvious her heart is in the right place.
The AWF, which is out of Anamosa for the time being, is planning to build a cat and dog shelter north of Monticello near the intersection of Highway 151 and Business Highway 151.
Among the many items Keziah’s friends brought included an Iowa State University dog collar, cat toys, dog bones, water bowls and various other animal toys and treats. Some donated money for the AWF. Keziah also donated her birthday money as well.
“I kept $21,” she said.
This isn’t the first time Keziah did something like this. For her previous birthdays, she had people bring non-perishable food items for the Monticello Food Pantry. She also buys Christmas presents for Jones County kids through the HACAP program.
“I pick out a present and wrap it and say it’s from Santa,” she said. “Those kids may not get a lot for Christmas.”
Keziah said she just imagines what the animals would feel like if they didn’t have a home or food to eat or toys to play with.
“It’s empathy,” she said. (Yes, this little girl actually used the word “empathy.”)
Two of Keziah’s good friends (Kinzi and Haili Schlarmann) have a connection to the AWF; their grandmother Vicki Kelchen is a dedicated volunteer with the organization.
“We all just really love animals,” said Keziah.
The McQuillen family currently has three cats and two dogs. One of the cats they rescued is looking for a good home.
“We named it ZeeBee,” Keziah explained of the 6-month old kitten, “and it is grey with black stripes.”
Of their daughter’s kind heart, Kim McQuillen said they always talk about what Keziah wants to do for her birthdays.
“She’s very loving,” Kim said. “We know it’s appreciated.”
AWF President Kelly Day said Keziah’s donation was such a sweet gesture.
“It’s my Christmas gift to the animals,” she said. “Now they’ll be healthy and enjoy it.”
Keziah continues to raise money for the AWF by volunteering at their Belgian Waffle supper fundraiser. She said she wants to set up a stand in her yard near the fairgrounds and sell items to fairgoers during the week.
“People should think about the animals, too, at Christmas time,” Keziah offered.