Each month, Central Penn Parent features a child who is doing great things. They pitch in to make a difference in their schools, places of worship and throughout their communities. They are a blessing to those around them—yet their efforts often go unrecognized. We want to thank them for a job well done! Each child receives a cape and a prize package from our sponsors.
When Devon Rodriguez-Cayro first wanted to help at her local Humane Society, she was stifled by the age requirement—volunteers must be at least 18 years old to work at the Humane Society of the Harrisburg Area. So Devon found another way.
At 10 years old, the determined fourth-grader signed up for the annual Penguin Plunge, an event where volunteers jump into the freezing waters of the Susquehanna on New Year’s Day to raise money for the Humane Society. Devon originally sought out support from friends and family.
Five years later, Devon is a rising sophomore at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School and has continued jumping into the water, and her efforts at raising money have gotten much greater.
Through bake sales and corporate sponsors, Devon has raised $25,000 for the Humane Society to date.
“It hasn’t gotten any easier,” Devon said of the frigid leap. “I run to the car when it’s done and turn the heater up. But it’s such a great event with great people and wonderful to be a part of.”
Devon is an animal lover and wants to be a veterinarian someday; she already has a small zoo at home with a dog, five cats, a horse, hermit crabs and fish.
She also brings supplies to the Humane Society and visits the animals when she can—even though she always wants to take them all home when she leaves.
“It’s always inspiring when kids come here and want to help,” said Lori Zink, director of marketing at the Humane Society. “It’s always great when they come up with ways to help.”
Devon’s parents, Marnie and Nick, are very proud of her selfless nature, which is something they say is natural to her. Her mom laughed as she recalled the only roadblock to the Penguin Plunge was herself.
“We tried to convince her not to do it,” Marnie said with a laugh. “She does so much and keeps us so busy!”
Devon is also a musician and even wrote and recorded a song inspired by the Humane Society’s animals. She sings at various benefit concerts for a host of causes, including pediatric cancer.
“I just believe it’s so important to help out,” Devon said.
Her main cause has remained helping the animals through the Penguin Plunge. She sells cake pops, dipped pretzels, dipped Oreos and more at school to raise money for the event. She also gets corporate sponsors by emailing and requesting donations; she wears her sponsors’ names on her back and arms when she makes the leap into the icy Susquehanna.
“She’s a very, very caring person,” Nick said. “She’s very genuine. It’s unique; she’s not me-oriented. It’s just innate to her and we’ve encouraged that.”
Devon is now 15, and Zink is excited for her to hit that magic number of 18 when she can come in and do more hands-on work at the Humane Society.
“I’m really looking forward to when she’s old enough to come in and help out here,” Zink said.
Kurt Bopp is assistant editor/web at Central Penn Parent.