“We believe that pets are a very important part of people's lives so we focus on connecting them in a variety of ways,” Meg Ryan, member of a UofM student organization called PAWS, told me. I recently ran into PAWS members at the hospitals annual charity event in October. They were happy, smiling college students wearing navy blue shirts with PAWS on them in bright yellow. PAWS has a several year history of providing the hospital with extra support for fundraising--but who are they, and what does that cute acronym stand for?
PAWS, an acronym meaning “Pets Are Wonderful Support,” is a student-led and -organized UofM group that provides contact between students and animals. Meg explains, “Our mission is providing pet services to low-income families, while developing and facilitating animal interests and awareness in members and the community.” PAWS started in California and came to the University of Michigan in 2009 as a student learning project. In 2010 it officially became a student organization. All students are welcome but many of PAWS' members are pre-vet students.
The UofM chapter of PAWS primarily focuses on bringing animals into the student population and increasing their membership so they can assist more people. Meg says, “We have often found that college students miss their pets from home so PAWS provides opportunities for students to engage with animals... human-animal interaction is usually quite limited for college students.” Meg hopes that as group membership increases they will be able to incorporate greater community outreach into their yearly activities.
That isn't to say PAWS members aren't already busy in the community! “Last year, we fundraised for the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital's Fixed Income Family Fund and this year we are fundraising for the Humane Society of Huron Valley. Our largest fundraiser of the year is called “Dogs in the Diag”. We bring therapy dogs from Therapaws to interact with college students during Finals week in the spring. Some of our other community involvement has included volunteering with Creature Conservancy and MOSAIC feline refuge when it was still in business.”
It is clear that Meg and the members of PAWS love animals and want to share that love not only with their university community but also the greater community. I asked her why a student, with all the other obligations that come along with college life, would volunteer their precious time and become a member of PAWS. She responded,
“I think a person becomes a member of PAWS because he or she is passionate about animals and the role of pets in peoples lives. I think they realize that pets are an important part of our lives, and fundraising and volunteering for animal organizations is a great way to ensure that more people can experience the joys of having a pet.”
If you would like any further information on PAWS and how to support this wonderful group, please visit their website.