Mimi Ausland is a 13 year old kid who is obviously headed for great things. She has had a love affair with animals for most of her life, and eventually channeled that love into a web site that is accomplishing miracles for animals in shelters across the U.S.
Mimi could hardly wait to be old enough to be an official shelter volunteer at the Humane Society of Central Oregon (HSCO), in Bend, Oregon. When she turned nine, the youngest age for volunteers, she hit the ground running, and has never looked back. Mimi started by donating bags of food to HSCO.
She had heard of freerice.com, a non-profit organization run by the United Nations World Food Program. The site has a series of questions, and each one a visitor answers correctly adds 10 grains of rice into a "pool" to provide free rice to hungry people all over the world. Mimi reasoned that a similar idea could help provide kibble to hungry shelter animals. Thus was the birth of freekibble.com and freekibblekat.com. Over 224,724,400 pieces of kibble have been donated since April 1, 2008 It wasn't long before a corporate sponsor came a long in the form of Castor & Pollux, an Oregon family-run pet food manufacturer, followed by Canidae, and Dogtime Media
I had the opportunity to interview this amazing youngster, and her answers to my questions could be a template for other kids who want to make a difference for animals.
Franny: I think I've read that you've been involved with the Oregon shelter since you were 7 years old. But what led to your original interest in helping shelter animals?
Mimi Ausland: Yes, I have been involved with the Humane Society of Central Oregon (HSCO) since I was 7. I started volunteering when I was 9, which is the youngest age that you can start at, but before I would go out with my mom and look at all the animals. I was led to my interest in helping shelter animals because of how I have always loved animals and taking care of them. I even kept a book about animals that I have rescued before. (A bird that our neighbors dog attacked, a worm who was in the middle of a sidewalk, a rainbow trout who was in our canal when the water was going out for the winter - we transfered him to the Deschutes river, etc.). When I found out that I was at the age to volunteer I was VERY excited!
Franny: Do you have pets of your own? Can you tell me a little bit about them?
Mimi Ausland: Yes, I have a Golden Retriever dog named Aspen who is 3 years old and is very cute and is always there for you but is a BIG pig! I also have a Maine Coon cat named Dorothy (but we call her Dot), who is about 7 years old and loves to be loved but needs her space. I have a Teddy Bear hamster named Sunny who is very sweet and loves corn, 4 tropical fish (one that I have had for over 5 years!) and yesterday we got two horses!! Their names are Charlie (who is a mix breed and has a chestnut color) and Sage (a Morgan/Perchron) and they are trail horses who have awesome personalities. :-) I love all my pets more than the world!
Fame Came Overnight for this Young GirlMimi's rise to fame was rapid. She was elected the ASPCA Kid of the Year for 2008. She has been featured in Cat Fancy Magazine, on the NBC Nightly News, People Magazine, and as a guest on the Ellen Degeneres show. Yet, she has kept her fresh innocence which makes her so appealing.
Franny: You've had a relatively quick rise to fame since freekatkibble.com started a little over a year ago, but it hasn't seemed to "go to your head." How do you feel about all those television interviews and awards you've received?
Mimi Ausland: I started freekibble.com and freekibblekat.com, to help the shelter dogs and cats, nothing more. When people started picking up the story and wanting me to do a radio interview, TV interview, newspaper article etc, I didn't really care if more people found out about me. But, then again I did (still do) care because I know that the more articles, interviews and awards I get the more people that know about what I am doing and more dogs and cats will get fed. I think it is a little weird to be on TV or hear my voice on the radio, but they are all great experiences that will stick with me for a long time!
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