Hart senior girls soccer player Geneva Reyes gathered her teammates to volunteer for her 18th birthday. Seven girls spent the morning at Los Angeles County Animal Care in Castaic on Feb. 16. They cleaned cages and gave the animals a chance to play and interact with people.
“It wasn’t hard. It’s one day out of your week that you give back two hours of your time,” Reyes said. “It flew by really fast for me and my group. We were able to get a lot done while we were there. It’s really rewarding. I left feeling very good about myself.”
Reyes made the decision to spend her birthday at Los Angeles County Animal Care after seeing her teammate Jessica Deegan do something similar for her own 18th birthday in January. Afterwards, Reyes and her mother sat down to think of ways she could give back, as well.
They made the decision to use her birthday as a volunteering opportunity, as well, not only to be good people, but to set a good example and be a role model for her little brother, Reyes said. He wasn’t able to attend, even though he wanted to, but the act still sends a message.
Volunteering at the animal shelter holds a special place in the Reyes family. Their family is very animal-centered, currently owning a cat, two dogs and recently a bearded dragon. Reyes’s mother is also a veterinarian technician.
“We’ve always been the type of people to really care and love animals because that’s just been how we were brought up,” Reyes said.
But the love for animals comes from more than just having them in the family.
“When we see a stray, we have a leash in the car, so wherever we’re going we stop to grab them,” Reyes said. “We actually go right here to the vet, we see if they’re chipped and if not, we take them to Castaic, but if they are chipped, we try to get their information and take them back to their owner.”
Reyes said the best part of volunteering at Los Angeles County Animal Care was seeing the connections her friends were able to make with the animals there, and the attachment each animal made with them in such a short period of time.
She recalled a specific situation with Deegan and a cat. The duo spent nearly the entire time together and the cat appeared to be content with the attention and love it was receiving from its new friend.
“It was really nice to see the connection this animal made with this new face,” Reyes said. “It didn’t know her but saw that she was giving back to him. We don’t get to see the ‘thank yous’ from animals, but they are completely and 100% appreciative of what we do for them.”
Reyes made a connection of her own, too. A 2-month-old puppy that appeared to come from an abusive household caught her eye. The puppy looked as if it had battery acid dumped on it and was neglected by its previous owner.
“Seeing how cruel people can be towards an innocent loving little puppy, that just broke my heart,” she said. “For me, to be able to see that this puppy was being helped and was in a better place than he was before is something that I really was grateful to see.”
She has already made plans to return to the Castaic Animal Care with her mother next weekend to check on the puppy. She wants to make sure it is doing better or see if anybody chose to adopt it and provide a better life.
She encourages anyone that wants to help their community or who loves animals to give their time to the animal shelter, no matter how little they actually give.
“I really think people should volunteer there more. It was a really cool experience,” Reyes said. “It’s not out of your way. It’s right in Castaic. It doesn’t hurt you and it gives a lot back to the animals who are there and need it.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at Los Angeles County Animal Care can sign up online at animalcare.lacounty.gov/become-a-volunteer/.
The experience at the animal shelter inspired Reyes to give more of her time back to the community. Her family plans to help the homeless in Skid Row at the next chance they get.
“We all know that Skid Row isn’t the nicest of places,” she said. “We’re going to be making care packages with soap, food, a toothbrush and little pantry things, little necessities that homeless can use.”
The details on her family’s trip to Skid Row are still in the works, but Reyes looks forward to another opportunity to give back to her community.
“I definitely think people should make more of a point to volunteer and make a point to give back because it’s really rewarding,” she said. “You can find the littles things to do. Being kind to your fellow man or animal.”