Three area fire departments now have oxygen masks for animals as part of their fire rescue equipment thanks to three area Girl Scouts.
Girl Scouts Jessie Strobush, Maddie Reike and Kirsten Meinert of Troop 11077 of Andover have presented the oxygen masks, both large and small, to the Anoka-Champlin, Coon Rapids and Ramsey fire departments for their Silver Award project.
They raised the money to purchase the oxygen masks through a series of fund-raisers.
The Girl Scouts’ project was called Project GOMAD (Get Oxygen Masks for All Dogs).
But the masks can be used in the event of a fire to revive not only dogs, but other animals, too, including cats, even snakes.
The girls found that both Anoka-Champlin and Ramsey fire departments had one oxygen mask for pets, but Coon Rapids did not have any.
Anoka-Champlin and Ramsey fire departments received six masks each – two large and two small – while Coon Rapids was presented with six masks, three large and three small.
“We thank you very much,” said Bret Gageby, assistant Coon Rapids fire chief.
The idea for the project came after Jessie and Maddie toured the Ramsey Fire Station and Maddie asked how many oxygen masks the department had for dogs; the response was one and it was at the other station.
“I began thinking about our Silver Award and all of a sudden a light bulb turned on in my head,” Maddie said.
A Silver Award project has to be something that helps the community with a recognizable need in a sustainable way, she said.
According to Maddie, she knew that both she and Jessie loved animals and would be devastated if their pets were not able to be saved in the event of a fire.
“I shared my idea and our project was born,” Maddie said.
According to Jessie, as soon as Maddie told her about her Silver Award project idea, she knew it was perfect.
“When she said it, my first thoughts drifted to my cat at home, who I love so much,” Jessie said.
“I couldn’t imagine losing her in a fire. I figured other people feel the same way, so buying more oxygen masks is the perfect way to help save them.”
Jessie and Maddie started the project in March 2012 and were joined by Kirsten early last summer as a cast member in some skits they wrote to promote the fund-raisers, then Kirsten participated in the fund-raising activities.
The girls’ fund-raising events included a family garage sale, a score-a-thon by getting pledges for every goal they scored in soccer, face painting at the 101 Market in Otsego for five Sundays in the fall and at a hockey tournament at the Anoka Ice Arena, selling ornaments they made at the hockey tournament and doing gift wrapping at Barnes & Noble a few days before Christmas.
All told, the girls raised $720 for the masks.
According to the girls, the project would not have been possible without BART (Basic Animal Rescue Training), which was started by Janet Olson in Minnesota after the home of her husband’s co-worker caught fire and his dog, Bart, died in the fire because he could not be revived by human resuscitation equipment.
The organization, named after the man’s dog, has certified more than 4,000 firefighters and other first responders who have saved the lives of many animals.
“I am happy that animals can live longer,” Kirsten said.
“I hope we don’t need to have the firefighters visit our house and use the equipment, but I am happy that more are available in the community.”
These masks can really help save the lives of animals, according to Jessie.
“I feel real good about the project,” Maddie said.
According to Jessie and Maddie, they learned a lot of leadership skills as well as learning a lot about themselves and the community.
Through the project, Kirsten said the gained organizational, persuasion, leadership and delegation skills.
“From the beginning to the end of the project, I was learning things about my friends, about working in a group and about the oxygen masks,” she said.
The Silver Award project has been submitted to the Girl Scout Council and all the requirements have been accomplished. The awards ceremony is in June.
Kirsten has been in Girl Scouts in kindergarten, Maddie and Jessie since first grade.
They are all planning to continue in Girl Scouts with the goal of achieving the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting.
All three girls are eighth-graders at Anoka Middle School for the Arts. Maddie lives in Anoka, Jessie in Ramsey and Kirsten in Andover.
They will all be attending Anoka High School as ninth-graders next school year.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]