Meet Wil, a curious and compassionate 12-year-old who enrolled in Camp Kindness at Catskill Animal Sanctuary this past summer to have fun on a farm meeting a bevy of formerly abused and neglected, but currently loved and cared for, animals. As important as ensuring kids have loads of fun, Camp Kindness also strives to open the hearts and minds of young people by teaching them about the connection between animals, people, and the planet.
Wil’s home nearby is also home to horses, pigs, and goats…not to mention the family’s two dogs. But it wasn’t until attending Camp Kindness that he experienced the “sameness” between himself and the animals he was so used to seeing…and eating. In fact, Wil and an unsuspecting chicken named Jailbird became fast friends, which led to a more committed relationship before the week was up. Wil put his money where is mouth is – and where his fork would have been – when he decided to sponsor Jailbird. Wil was beaming with pride the last time I saw him. A small audience of CAS volunteers and staff encircled him as he opened up a big, flat box containing photo enlargements of his beaked buddy. With the pride of a new parent showing off baby photos, he smiled and said, “He’s so cute–I love just love him.”
When Wil approached me on his last day of camp, an armload of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks weighing down his gait, (but not his attitude), he asked nervously, “Chef Linda, I’ve decided to be a vegetarian. Can you help me?”. Wow. Talk about moments a vegan chef dreams about! Here was a young boy, about to become a young man, on the verge of changing the course of his life – and the lives of the thousands of animals he would have potentially consumed.
What else could I say but, “Absolutely!!”