Issue 67 of American Lifestyle magazine features many unique individuals, from Jon Bon Jovi and his creation of a pay-what-you-can community restaurant to Jonathan Grahm and his line of luxurious looking chocolates. In preparation for this issue, we discovered so many great stories that it was impossible to include all of them within the pages of the magazine. However, the story of Annie Blumenfeld’s Wags 4 Hope was too inspiring not to share.
At just sixteen years old, Annie has founded her very own nonprofit organization that is committed to educating others about heartworm disease and raising money for animal shelters around the country. By meshing her artistic skills and passion for painting with her innate love of animals, Annie sells and donates original dog paintings in order to spread the Wags 4 Hope mission, and the results speak for themselves: the inspiring teen has already raised over $30,000 in just two years!
Wags 4 Hope was started after Annie’s family began looking for a dog of their own. Their search ended when they found Teddy, a two-year-old shaggy dog at a high-kill shelter in Houston, Texas. Teddy was a rescue dog, and after an antigen test during his check-up, the veterinarian discovered that he tested positive for heartworm disease, the treatment for which is very expensive, very painful, and can cause serious life-threatening complications. Teddy received two injections of arsenic and had to remain inactive while being carefully monitored for a couple months.
Annie was heartbroken upon learning that Teddy had to go through so much pain in order to get better, and she wanted to know more about the disease that was afflicting her new friend. Through research, she soon learned how serious and grave of a condition heartworm can be for dogs, and vowed to make an impact in the canine community by raising awareness for preventative measures.
“Having learned the devastating effects of heartworm disease from my loving companion, I seek to educate pet owners across the country about heartworm disease. I know I can make a difference and help save other innocent dogs that are at high risk.”
The Wags 4 Hope Mission
Confident that she could make a difference and help save other dogs at risk, Annie began Wags 4 Hope as a way to educate pet owners across the country about heartworm disease. The teen uses the nonprofit as a means to remind people of the importance of preventing the disease before it can infect a pet—she shares that the best solution to ensuring the pet does not become infected is through preventatives that are FDA-approved and require a veterinarian’s prescription.
Besides educating others, Annie uses her artwork to raise money for the cause. Whether she is painting candid portraits of dear Teddy or taking on commissioned pieces based off of other people’s beloved pets, all proceeds from her sold paintings and fundraising events go to animal shelters and rescue groups to help cover the cost of an animal’s medical supplies until they find a home. Annie donates to different animals shelters across the United States (the list can be found on her website), and when people request specific shelters, she remains very flexible with where the proceeds go.
To check out more of Annie’s paintings, or to purchase your own custom pet portrait, check out her Wags 4 Hope website. Annie currently takes commission requests via e-mail inquiries.
Balancing High School with Nonprofit Leadership
Wags 4 Hope has grown in many ways since its start in 2012. Annie’s painting orders have increased—she has already painted over 225 pieces!—and she has reached several impressive media outlets to help spread the mission of the organization, including special features in Dog Fancy, Cesar’s Way Magazine, and the NY Daily News.
Although thrilled about this success, Annie makes sure to maintain a healthy focus on her school work and limits her painting to two to three hours a week. Annie has also established a Wags 4 Hope club at her high school, with over fifty current members, as a way to continue her work and incorporate it into her high school experience. She plans to study business and law in college, and hopes to find a job related to dogs. Her future plans for her organization include establishing a Wags 4 Hope Club in college in order to continue her advocacy and inform others about the dangers of heartworm disease.
To aid in Annie’s mission, follow and share the young philanthropist’s journey on Facebook.
“If people can click Like and share my page with others, we all can help educate and protect our furry friends!”