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Coolest Pet Contest Raises Money for SAW Tutoring Network

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) – The past two years have been very difficult for families and children, especially when it comes to education. That’s why the Kiwanis Club of the Shenandoah Valley used its Coolest Animal Contest to help raise funds for Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Tutoring Network.

Dexter was voted the coolest animal in the Shenandoah Valley. He put on his best smile at the awards ceremony even though he had to leave home to claim his new title.

“He’d rather be on his favorite couch, on his pillows, sleeping or watching the neighbors,” said Dexter’s human Joey Lambert.

A dog named Ricochet came in second, followed by an alpaca named George Clooney.

Thanks to the 49 incredible pet entries, the votes they received, and a matching grant from the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge, the contest was able to raise $10,000 for the SAW Tutoring Network. It’s a free program for K-12 students that was launched during the pandemic.

“We have seen students slowing down their academic progress. The lack of class time had a major impact on this, but families were also under a lot of stress,” said Sarah Mendoca, founder of the SAW Tutoring Network.

Volunteer tutors meet with students virtually to help them with homework, prepare for tests, and learn the skills needed to succeed academically. Even when students returned to class, the tutoring network was still needed.

“Students had still lost ground a bit, and we saw that they wanted to keep coming because they realized the value of having that individualized attention that our tutors can give,” Mendoca explained.

Currently, the tutoring network serves the entire SAW region working out of the Staunton-Augusta YMCA. The nonprofit says it looks forward to using the money to find new ways to engage with the community so it can ultimately help more children.

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