Hand and Paw

“It was amazing to see whole families with their dogs supporting my event. I could not stop smiling.”

- Becca Cerra

Background Information

Becca Cerra grew up in Swampscott, Massachusetts and from a young age loved spending time with dogs. In middle school, she and her friend had a dog walking business that donated a one third of the profits to the Northeast Animal Shelter. Later, Becca fostered dogs until they found their forever home, and spent a summer volunteering at another animal shelter. Even though Becca was never able to have a dog of her own, she wanted to do everything she could to keep giving back. The culminating leadership project was a great opportunity for her to combine her newly developed leadership skills and her love for dogs. Becca created “Hand and Paw” which is a non-profit organization that hosts events to raise awareness for the importance of adopting animals from shelters and donating money to these shelters. She organized a dog friendly event, The 5K Doggy Dash, where participants had the opportunity to run with their dog through a beautiful course in The Lynn Woods Reservation. This event was a great way to get the dog-loving community united for the common goal of helping animal shelters support homeless dogs. Becca’s athleticism and love for the outdoors helped show the 5K Doggy Dash participants that Lynn Woods is a great area close to home where people can enjoy time with their dogs outdoors.

“When volunteering at the Cape Ann Animal Aid last summer, I fell in love with all of the dogs and puppies. I wanted to help them in any way that I could.”
– Becca

Implementation of Project

Once Becca returned home from her life changing adventure at the Alzar School, she immediately got started on implementing her project. She had very little experience creating a race, so she met with an event coordinator from a local gym to get advice for the steps she needed to take. Becca soon found out the amount of time and dedication that it takes to coordinate a race. Her goal was to have the race on September 27th; this gave her about three and a half months to prepare. Becca applied for a permit to use the Lynn Woods Reservation, reached out to local businesses for donations and sponsorships, created a registration page, and set up a business bank account for all of the donations. Becca learned the importance of maintaining a professional atmosphere when asking for donations. She also learned that another very important part of organizing a race is the advertisements, which should be started at least two months prior to the race. Becca hung up fliers around town, at other races, at dog parks, and in stores, hoping to get as many people interested as possible. Getting participants to sign up for the race became one of Becca’s greatest challenges. She had to make her event stand out when compared to other 5K runs. Thus, Becca came up with the idea to give complimentary race bandanas to all of the participants, have dog tag medals for the top runners in each age category, and of course there would be two adoptable puppies from the Cape Ann Animal Aid at the race. Becca also spoke about her race during an assembly at her school looking for both volunteers and runners.

“I was constantly surprised by the generosity and encouragement from all of the businesses that I spoke to about donating to my race.”
– Becca

Results of Project

The 5K Doggy Dash had a total of 38 participants, more than half with dogs, and 8 volunteers. The fundraising money came from the donations, participant fees, raffle tickets, and bandanas that were being sold the day of the race. Despite a slight mix up on the course, the race day was a success! After the race was completed everyone was enjoying snacks, meeting new people and dogs, and participating in the raffle. A reporter from a local newspaper even showed up, and was amazed to find that a high school student was managing the event. After the race Becca made a giant check of $1,200 and delivered the proceeds to the Cape Ann Animal Aid just in time for the holiday season. Everyone at the shelter was so grateful and impressed!

“It was amazing to see whole families with their dogs supporting my event. I could not stop smiling.”
– Becca

What’s Next

Becca graduates with her senior class from Buckingham Browne and Nichols (BB&N) in the spring of 2016. She will then begin her next adventure in college. Wherever she ends up, Becca hopes to continue helping out her community and setting a good example for other to follow. With her strong background in outdoor activities (like backpacking and kayaking), she hope to be a leader in an outdoors club at college. Becca may also have another 5K Doggy Dash in the summer of 2016 before leaving for college. She hopes to dedicate the proceeds from the next race to a different animal shelter.

“I will never forget what it feels like to give back to my community and to make an impact on people’s and animal’s lives. This is is not a feeling that I cannot describe. I know that I will continue to work hard to make a difference.”
– Becca