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Edwards youth 'conquer' the gift of giving, volunteering

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A youth group from the Base Chapel's Catholic parish, called The Conquerors, is doing its best to exemplify the Air Force core value, "service before self," in all they do.

As part of that effort, the youth group recently took time to raise funds and donate money to the base's local Adopt-A-Pet (APET) shelter May 18. APET is a non-profit, no-kill animal rescue shelter for dogs and cats located on Edwards AFB.

"The kids initially organized, advertised and put into action a 'drop-in' babysitting night May 9 at Chapel 1. With this event, they wanted to raise money for the APET shelter on base. They noticed a need in their local community and wanted to make a difference," said Karen Todaro, dependent and Catholic Junior High youth leader for The Conquerors.

According to Todaro, the idea to start up the youth group arose when her family arrived at Edwards two years ago and noticed that there wasn't a youth group for the junior high students.

"Another mother and I agreed to start one up. She moved after the first year, and Kim Hoelscher agreed to co-lead this year with me. Two years ago, we both felt it was important for the 7th and 8th graders to spend time with peers who shared the same Christian faith," Todaro said. "This youth group was founded on the desire to put the kids' faith into action. It is my hope that the kids reflect upon the service they have performed."

For this specific event, Todaro said the children were able to raise $640 for a local organization that is funded solely through private donations and collected adoption fees.

"APET was established in 2002, because there was a need for military personnel who were transferring but unable to take their animals with them. Before this, all the animals on base would go to the Mojave or Lancaster Animal Shelter, where they may be euthanized if not adopted," said Shelley Thurman, 412th Communications Squadron employee and APET president. "Since we are self-funded and we are all volunteers here, events like this are so important, especially when we have organizations that donate money to us. It really gives us the assistance we need to care for the animals, provide them with food, or even provide them with surgeries they may need."

Aside from the donation, Todaro noted that many of the youth also volunteer there as well as other off-base non-profit organizations.

"We really see the shelter and its staff put all their money, effort and time into this and we love that we can help out," said Kayla Dean, 7th grader.

"I think it's amazing how they'll take in any animal, and since they really want to help all these animals, it's really nice to be able to help them out like this," added Adelina Geraghty, 7th grader. "We're very dedicated to being able to serve our community. I try to come at least once a week, but everyone here works together for a good cause."

Todaro also said that even though they currently have 15 youths who volunteer and attend the youth group meetings, children are still welcome if they are interested. The group plans to volunteer with more organizations throughout the year.

"The only condition to join is to be a 7th or 8th grader. It is open to all kids. If anyone is interested in joining, I recommend their parents contact Sonya Burgess, the parish coordinator at Edwards. This is located at Chapel 2," Todaro said. "Over the past year, they have fed the hungry, gave their time to the elderly, served the needy, remembered the lonely, and cared for all of God's creatures. I hope they see these same needs in their next community and continue to serve. The seed has been planted and I hope each Conqueror continues to nourish the action-oriented aspect of their faith."

For more information about animal adoption, volunteer opportunities, or making a donation, contact Shelley Thurman at 661-258-9525. Additionally, log onto www.petfinder.com/shelters/ca913.html or www.facebook.com/APETRescue to view animals available for adoption. The facility is located at 615 South Forbes Ave., Bldg. 5550.

For more information about The Conquerors, contact Sonya Burgess at 661-277-2110.