GVSU Humane Society celebrates Halloween with service

GVL / Courtesy - Haley Gaede
Lexi Henckel (left) and Kathleen Szczesny (right) at John Ball Zoo Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016.

Haley Gaede

GVL / Courtesy – Haley Gaede Lexi Henckel (left) and Kathleen Szczesny (right) at John Ball Zoo Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016.

Ashlyn Korienek

From educating the public on meatless diets to advocating to end animal abuse, Grand Valley State University’s student-run Human Society is dedicated to making a difference in the community. As Halloween approaches, the organization started its festivities by volunteering for the “Zoo Goes Boo” event at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids.

Upholding more than 100 members, the GVSU Humane Society (HSGV) started as initiative to increase cage-free eggs on campus and advocate for more food options. HSGV is not only focused on animal awareness, but allows students to obtain volunteer opportunities and hands-on experience with animals.

Dressed up in their favorite costumes, HSGV volunteers interacted with visitors at the John Ball Zoo for the “Zoo Goes Boo” event from Oct. 21-23. The event acted as one of HSGV’s primary service events for the year.

For the event, children dressed in costumes and explored the zoo as they were able to trick-or-treat from different vendors. The HSGV volunteers read stories to listeners who interacted with sounds and movements during the event.

“What we ended up doing is reading stories in our costumes to the children. We had two books they gave us, so we dressed up and read to the kids,” said Haley Gaede, president of HSGV and pre-veterinary student at GVSU. “It was fun interacting with the kids.”

These community events, Gaede said, allows members to network and build service hours while helping organizations maintain funds for the animals.

“All of the organizations we try to get involved in are usually animal-based and nonprofit, so they are usually doing all of this work to make a difference in some way,” Gaede said. “You pretty much have two options, you can donate your time or you can donate your money. Being college students, it’s a lot easier to find time more reasonably than donating a bunch of money.

“It’s the best way that you can give back to these organizations.”

Acting as a member of the group for nearly four years, Gaede had a passion for animals ever since she was 5 years old. After learning about the group, she joined in hopes to leave an impact on the community and find a way to connect to animals.

“I just could see the club going somewhere,” she said. “I loved all of the different things that we did and how we’re making an impact. I really wanted to be a part of it.”

Volunteering with various shelters and organizations in West Michigan, Gaede said events like “Zoo Goes Boo” are beneficial, as HSGV members are able to build stronger relationships and learn more about how they can make a difference. She said working with the zoo is a life-long valuable experience.

“It’s been really rewarding,” she said. “Keeping in contact with the volunteer coordinators or just having those extra relationships is really rewarding.”

Kassandra Bitz, secretary for HSGV, was elected president for the winter semester and plans to dedicate her service to continuing the improvement of hands-on activities offered throughout the year.

Students who join the club, she said, are able to focus their passions into improving the environment for both animals and the entire community.

“I have been a part of the club for one-and-a-half years now, and there are so many rewards to it,” she said. “Seeing what we can do for the community on and off GVSU’s campus, students coming together volunteering to help animals, their passion and what we stand for.”

For those interested in joining, HSGV meetings take place in Mackinac Hall Room B1112 every Tuesday at 9 p.m. There are no requirements, but the fee to join is either $10 for a semester or $15 for the year.