-- Celebrating Grassroots Efforts by AKC Clubs --
Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland made four very successful movies together from 1939 to 1942. Interestingly, each movie – starting with Babes in Arms – followed pretty much the same overarching storyline. In order to put a spotlight on some worthy cause, the young stars and their friends would follow Mickey’s rousing and motivating call to action: "Hey kids, let’s put on a show!"
Last month, the AKC put on a show with the spotlight on purebred dogs – AKC Meet the Breeds®. The "Broadway" version of the show took place in New York and was an enormous success, thanks especially to Gina DiNardo, Michael Canalizo, and the dedicated AKC Staff, and the dogs and their people who were the show itself.
That very same weekend a little more than 100 miles away in Hartford, CT, another meet the breeds type-event took place (in this instance, it was acceptable to have two "shows" less than 200 miles from each other). Like the AKC Meet the Breeds New York, this "Showcase of AKC Breeds" was a rousing success in educating the public about purebred dogs. The genesis of this event was 20 years ago when the South Windsor Kennel Club and its president, Peggy Wampold, probably had the same epiphany as Mickey Rooney. This year, 14 AKC clubs, the Connecticut Dog Federation, and the Massachusetts Federation of Dog Clubs joined the chorus of "Hey kids, let’s put on a show!" and delivered almost every recognized breed plus a few in FSS, hundreds of knowledgeable dog people, and some 30,000 spectators who learned about purebred dogs.
This initiative is a perfect example of an important differentiator for the AKC. Unlike almost all other organizations, we have more than 5,000 clubs capable of some very effective grassroots efforts. In our mission to educate the public about purebred dogs and responsible dog ownership – and the necessity to educate and build relationships with legislators – the passionate, knowledgeable and dedicated fancy is the ultimate persuasion force. It is through informed interaction and positive experiences like this that the public will fully understand the important role purebred dogs play in our lives – and why having one in their lives is so desirable, also.
These critical grassroots efforts are recognized by the American Kennel Club as extraordinary contributions to purebred dogs. We established the American Kennel Club Community Achievement Awards in support and appreciation of the outstanding public education and legislative efforts of AKC-affiliated clubs, AKC-recognized federations and their members. Recipients of the award are selected for successfully promoting responsible dog ownership within their communities or for effectively introducing, monitoring or responding to legislative issues affecting dog ownership. Honorees receive a certificate of recognition, and their club or federation receives $1,000 to further public education and strengthen government relations efforts within their community.
Nominations are accepted throughout the entire year and awards are granted once every quarter. One year's honorees included a federation that launched a grassroots effort to halt a piece of potentially harmful legislation to purebred dog owners, an individual club member who made presentations about responsible dog ownership to more than 1,000 school children; and a club that has consistently been an integral part of its community by donating resources to schools and libraries and participating in area events to promote the sport and welfare of purebred dogs.
The third quarter 2012 winners are the Lehigh Valley Kennel Club for their two-day AKC Canine Learning Experience and the Obedience Training Club of Wichita Falls for their numerous educational events throughout the year. Complete information on the extraordinary efforts of these clubs is available here.
What does it take to accomplish success like that? Eddie Rickenbacker, a World War I air ace and Medal of Honor recipient, race car driver, automotive designer, military consultant, and creator and long-time leader of Eastern Airlines gave probably the best insight into that question. His thoughts on character serve as an excellent description of the people behind the work that goes into the AKC Community Achievement Awards: "The four cornerstones of character," he said, "are initiative, imagination, individuality and independence." Interestingly, those appear to be four words that aptly describe the fancy.
As we each consider the challenges we face from those who do not share our passion for purebred dogs, who would eliminate our right to breed, and even our right to own our dogs, it is important to remember that the will of an educated public is our path to winning. Bringing our knowledge and passion to them starts with each of us at the grassroots level possessing the indomitable spirit portrayed in the movies by Mickey Rooney. And in life by Peggy Wampold and her hard-working associates.
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