I spend several hours each week volunteering for my children’s high school band program. The program features a jazz band, two concert bands, and a large 160-student pep band. I became a regular band parent volunteer when my kids were in middle school because they responded to the music and developed close friends. In high school, the band became their family–a group to belong to in a vast sea of faces, classes, teachers, expectations, and pressures.
I help plan fundraisers, chaperone band tours to places like Disney World, the Caribbean, San Francisco and San Diego, help maintain the band website, and even host the end-of-the-year band party at our house. The band director is an amazing teacher who helps his students develop leadership skills as well as music skills. I’ve watched my children become more confident and independent within the confines of this supportive environment and would gladly volunteer more hours if I could find them in each day.
Recently, I asked my writer/illustrator friends what they do in their spare time. The results were so numerous and varied, I will have to devote several blog posts to publishing them all. Several authors and illustrators focus time on causes relating to animals. Enjoy the responses below (in the author/illustrator’s own words and in no particular order), and watch for more spare time posts soon!
Jeri Chase Ferris: “Volunteer at Ride to Walk, a therapeutic horseback riding program, one afternoon a week as horse leader.”
Terri Farley: “I…have big fun caring for my neighbor’s horses. From a half mile away, the horses hear my front door open & nicker for attention. I love grooming and cleaning hooves, scrunching Darlin’ ‘s mane as if I were another horse nibbling her affectionately, and trying to tempt a cautious mustang named Whiskey to show he likes me, even when I’m not carrying a feed bucket. Through Authoring Change, I do fundraising and publicity for literacy and humane causes, letting my books and bit of notoriety (I would never call myself a celebrity ; see above reference to chocolate) attract attention for all the right reasons. [In] this way I’ve been able to help out the Nevada Humane Society, a number of horse sanctuaries, Riding for Reading, [and] the Humane Society of the United States.”
Susan Taylor Brown: “…training my German Shepherd Cassie. She is a rescue dog I got about a year ago and I want to train her for therapy work.”
Anne Robinson: “Growing up in a musically and artistically talented family, I was convinced the talent fairy had passed me by completely. I discovered later in life that I have a talent; I write. I have always written. I can’t NOT write. And I write more than children’s books. I have actually been published in dog club and dog training magazines and newsletters! And my collie, Sailor, has his own blog, although he has to make advance arrangements for computer time.
“Most of my spare time is devoted to training and showing my collies in agility, herding and obedience. My older collie is titled in agility and obedience and the younger is coming along nicely. The older collie is a Delta Society therapy dog as well. As such, he has visited a local Alzheimer’s center and has taken part in a reading project at the East Palo Alto Library. Children in the after-school tutorial program who need help with basic reading skills come once a week to read to the participating dogs. I plan to have my younger collie Delta certified also so he can visit hospitals and become part of the READ program. The Siberian husky simply runs wild and reminds us all how to be happy.”
Ginger Wadsworth: “I helped start a program in the Orinda, California Library we call Paws to Read, in which children in grades 1-5, come to the library to read to therapy dogs who are assisted by their handlers. Our Paws to Read sessions are inspired by a national program called R.E.A.D. – www.therapyanimals.org/read, which I read about in my newspaper. I also observed a local version of a very successful one in Pleasanton, CA’s public library. Statistics now show that participating children often improve their reading skills in this non-judgmental environment, and they get to be with animals when it isn’t always possible at home, due to allergies, etc. Some programs actually have therapy cats!”
Deborah Underwood: “The cause closest to my heart is the well-being of animals, particularly farmed animals, so I spend some of my free time advocating for them in various ways. I’m delighted when I get to combine my two loves–for instance, my picture book Granny Gomez and Jigsaw (out next spring) is about the friendship between a woman and her adopted pig. The book evolved from my experiences at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, where I learned that pigs not only are extremely intelligent, but also form close friendships. I was up at the sanctuary last weekend and had some good cuddle-time with a turkey, so you can guess what my next manuscript might be about!”
Suzanne Morrone: “Dogs! My dogs take up any time I’m willing to give them. I take them to obedience class, we go tracking, we walk every day and play tennis ball endlessly. And I am a Therapy Dogs International volunteer. My three legged Kelpie and I visit our local library and kids read to him. We are going to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life walk and he will offer comfort and support to those who have lost limbs (or just love dogs).”