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Young boy's donations bring charity more than one type of change

Gavin Anderson (left) and Ashley Kurtz are shown after Anderson gave his latest donation to Coco's Heart Dog Rescue. Anderson has donated $2,000 over the past four years. Kurtz, founder of Coco's Heart, said she's very grateful. Shown with Anderson and Kurtz is Timmy, an adoptable lab mix puppy. Photo courtesy Kristy Anderson.

Four years ago, Gavin Anderson decided not to collect presents from his friends for his sixth birthday party. Instead, he collected donations for Hudson-based Coco's Heart Dog Rescue.

"He was very interested right from the start," said Gavin's mom Kristy. "He looked up a couple different charities and ultimately decided to choose Coco's Heart."

Each year since then, Kristy and dad Jason Anderson have given Gavin the option of getting presents or collecting donations at his birthday parties with his friends.

So far, Kristy said, Gavin has chosen to gather donations for Coco's Heart every year. He's donated a grand total of $2,000 thus far.

"It's had a huge impact," said Ashley Kurtz, Coco's Heart founder. "Gavin is very special."

Gavin was the first "young supporter" to donate to Coco's Heart. Kurtz said a picture of him and his donation was posted on the Coco's Heart Facebook Page.

She said that really started something.

"He sort of sent the message that being charitable on your birthday is just as fun as receiving presents, which is pretty cool," Kurtz said.

Quite a few young donors now support Coco's Heart.

"They've really stepped up in many ways," Kurtz said, "donating for their birthdays or hosting lemonade stands, or Girl Scout Troops helping out. It's really incredible what they do, and a lot of that started because of Gavin's choice to donate to us when he was 6 years old."

In fact, Coco's Heart now hosts birthday parties at Angel's Pet World for children, adults, or dogs who want to support Coco's Heart.

Coco's Heart brings adoptable puppies to the party. It helps the puppies find good homes and to be more socialized with kids, people and other dogs.

Kurtz, who named Coco's Heart in honor of her dog Coco she had as an 8-year-old, said she really feels a connection with the kids who donate to Coco's Heart.

"I feel like Gavin is part of Coco's Heart," she said.

Gavin plans to continue donating to Coco's Heart for his birthdays. Even though the Anderson family is moving to North Carolina very soon.

"Knowing that even though he's moving across the country, and still choosing to support us is special to me," Kurtz said. "We're so grateful to Gavin...there's so many dogs that have been helped because of his generosity."

For his part, Gavin said he likes donating to Coco's Heart because it helps animals. He said donating makes him feel good and proud. He wants to continue the donations after the move to inspire people and help Coco's Heart.

Kristy said she thinks part of the reason Gavin decided to support Coco's Heart is because their family dog had died not long before Gavin's sixth birthday party.

Because of the family's strong connection with Coco's Heart, Kristy said, they plan to adopt a dog through the rescue, when their family is ready — even if they're living in North Carolina.

For now, Kristy and Jason are very proud of Gavin's donations.

"I can't even say how proud we are."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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