Whereas most teenagers want clothing or a new smartphone for their birthday, Katy Sell wanted something, well, let’s say, quite different, for her 12th birthday. She wanted to help U.S. veterans.
After Katy’s mother challenged her to do something kind for others on her birthday, Katy, who lives in Deubrook, South Dakota, came up with a bigger idea than her mom ever imagined: She decided to donate all of her presents to the California-based Big Paws Canine Academy and Foundation, a nonprofit that trains service animals for veterans and has a Midwest branch in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
According to the Big Paws website, Katy and her mother Julie Sell, a Navy veteran, were homeless seven years ago. It was that tough experience that gave them extra motivation to help others.
When people heard about Katy’s generosity, her school friends and many others chipped in additional donations to help the nonprofit. At Katy’s birthday party, several veterans brought their service animals to meet the generous teen and her friends. Ricky Crudden told Denise DePaolo of KSFY, “I lost the use of my legs due to a stroke because of COPD.” Big Paws matched him with his service dog Tracer. Crudden said, “He saved my life. He woke me up in the middle of the night.”
During the party, one veteran received the dog he’d been waiting for — giving Katy the experience of seeing the first moments of a new relationship. “It gives me a good, tingly feeling inside because I know I’m helping a lot of people,” Sell told DePaolo.
MORE: This Nonprofit Reunites Veterans with the Four-Legged Friends They Made Overseas