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Local family, charities BHS beneficiaries



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December 11, 2013 - The family of a patient struggling with cancer, a therapeutic animal farm, and an organization that sends supplies to canines serving overseas in the military will be the recipients of funds raised by students and concerned community members during the Brandon High School Charity Week.

The BHS Student Council selects a charity annually for which to raise funds. This year, they chose three to help right here in the community.

"We usually pick the charity depending on what the state charity is, but we wanted to keep it local this year, we wanted to see the money used here," said Student Council Member Morgan Hebb. "We know any money we raise will be appreciated and will mean a lot to smaller charities that don't get much money compared to larger charities."

Offering Alternative Therapy With Smiles (O.A.T.S.), located at 3090 Weidemann Drive in Brandon Township and chosen as one of the beneficiaries, has been serving children and adults with disabilities since 1977. The non-profit organization seeks to promote the health, well-being and happiness of these individuals through horseback riding and related activities. The farm has 15 horses, as well as a pot-bellied pig, goats and miniature donkeys for clients.

"These days, society is so much about me, me, me—it's nice to see others wanting to give back," said Beth Pellerito, who took the reins at O.A.T.S. this year after founder Nancy Heussner died. "We are supported entirely by donations."

Students also selected Desert K-9s, a non-profit run by Sandie Smith, who was inspired to start her organization in 2007 after helping with the Desert Angels. The latter organization sends care packages to U.S. military servicemembers overseas. Smith wanted to make sure their furry comrades were not forgotten. Desert K-9s purchases cooling vests, doggles (eyewear) and muttluks (boots) for the dogs. The boots protect paws from hot sand and cuts from rough terrain and keeps them warm in winter. Doggles protect the eyes of canines from sun, flying debris, and blowing sand. Smith said the dogs wear them very well and they are also needed when parachuting.

Desert K-9s also sends toys, treats and grooming supplies overseas. They have helped more than 200 dogs, often Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and Belgian Malinois.

"The dogs' handlers tell us how much they appreciate it and how much it means to receive the boxes, knowing that we care about them and appreciate the work they do," said Smith, adding that the Desert K-9 organization's mascot is K-9 Joe, named in honor of Joseph Miracle, a Brandon High School graduate killed in action on July 5, 2007 while serving in Afghanistan. "The dogs sniff out IEDS (improvised explosive devices), and also search for drugs, enemies, and wounded soldiers."

She notes the dogs have saved thousands of lives, but are considered equipment by the U.S. government. She and others are lobbying Congress to change their status and give them the same rights as soldiers.

Hebb notes that all the recipients, including the cancer patient's family, which wishes to stay anonymous, are well-deserving.

BHS Charity Week is this week, with various events planned. On Monday, students can purchase breakfast foods for $1 during all first hours. On Tuesday, Dec. 17, students throughout the district can wear a hat to school in exchange for donating $1 to the charity drive. From 6-8 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18, the community is invited to attend the Mr. Blackhawk Pageant at the BHS PAC, 1025 S. Ortonville Road, in which high school boys will be judged (by teachers) in casual attire and formalwear. A talent round and game show is also part of the pageant. Admission is $5 per person.

During coffee shop night, from 5-7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 19 at the high school, the public is invited to enjoy entertainment and refreshments for $3 admission.

The week concludes with the boys varsity basketball game on Friday night, during which students will run through the stands at halftime, collecting change for the charities.

Donation buckets for charity week are located at several area businesses and donations can also be dropped off at the Brandon High School office during school hours. Make checks payable to the Brandon School District, writing 'charity week' in the memo line. Donations will continued to be accepted through BHS until Feb. 1. Details: 248-627-1820.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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