The Kansas City Pet Project gets involved with a variety of fundraising events, like winter beer-drinks at the local bar and “Hoops 4 Hounds” in the spirit of March Madness. They’re a total “grassroots” rescue, and not afraid to show it.
So when a letter arrived from the “European Historical and Cultural Society from Fort Leavenworth,” Director of Livesaving Programs Stephanie Bell didn’t hesitate to respond. “I still laugh when I think about having said ‘Wow, this is a really nice handwritten letter—why didn’t he just email me?” she writes on the rescue’s website.
She never guessed the request had actually come from a prison.
In the spring of 2015 Bell and other members of the KC Pet Project visited the United States Disciplinary Barracks with a slideshow of photographs of the dogs. She writes:
[The slideshow] was a specific request from the inmates and ended up being a huge hit. Literally, a group of 100 men seeing a photo and saying “AWWWWWWWWWW.”
Hey, what human heart wouldn’t be moved by those irresistibly goofy faces?
When the rescue workers left the prison that day, they were told the inmates would be fundraising for the animals. Some time later they received a check for $2,000—the men had donated a portion of their wages to what they clearly thought was a worthy cause.
Bell was warmed by their generosity, but it wouldn’t be the last time. She returned in 2016 with Kristy Biermann and Kellie Reilly, trainers who work with the doggie playgroups, to share just how far they’d come. The focus was on how dogs sometimes become stressed in the shelter environment, and how that impacts their shot at finding a home.
The inmates were definitely on the same page and offered up tons of stories on dogs they had loved before they left for prison, stories about how they rescued their best friend, or took on a dog with behavior issues because they knew what it was like to need help and understanding. It was truly one of the most humanizing experiences of my life.
In March 2016 the ladies returned once again—for a pizza party! The men pooled their wages to provide food for everyone, and then then handed over yet another donation check. This time for $4,329.
Many of them told Bell how deeply the dogs’ situations resonated with them, and that they were beyond grateful for everything the rescuers have done. They even created a hand-drawn thank-you card which read:
Thank you for seeing us as what we have become and are becoming instead of what we once were. Thanks for the inspiration.
It seems fair to say that both groups—rescue workers and inmates alike—were genuinely moved. Enough to give to something they truly believed in, and enough to solidify the importance of reserving judgement. We can’t thank these men enough for their generosity, and of course the folks at the KC Pet Project, who go above and beyond every day for their animals.