In the Community: Necessity Creates Community

AAHA-accredited Community Animal Hospital of Royal Palm Beach holds an annual Pet Drawing Contest to engage with local elementary schools.

Winning drawings from a past year’s Pet Drawing Contest (photo courtesy of Community Animal Hospital of Royal Palm Beach).

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” noted the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. And so it was for AAHA-accredited Community Animal Hospital of Royal Palm Beach (CAH) in Royal Palm Beach, Florida. The new kid on the block when it opened its doors 30 years ago, today, its roots are deep thanks to a long-lasting and popular community project.

“We spent the first year trying to engage with the community,” said Tammy Dugal, co-owner and practice manager of CAH. “Then we realized children and pets were a logical resource. So we found the closest elementary school to our office, H.L. Johnson Elementary, and contacted the art teacher.”

CAH’s annual Pet Drawing Contest coincides with National Pet Week in May. The school begins collecting entries in January, although the popularity of the program has grown so much that students ask about submitting as soon as the school year starts. Additionally, the number of entries has become so great that the school now selects the top choices to forward to CAH.

Entries can be created at home or at school. They rely on various media, such as paint, crayons, markers, pencils, and pastels. Once CAH receives the entries, the judging begins.

“We look for creativity, color choices, how the art impacts us, and more,” said Dugal. “The entire staff is involved and looks forward not only to judging the entries but seeing the diversity and creativity in the styles, mediums, and animals selected as the subject matter of the art. We also often see the same student submit—and win—as they move through the grades,” Dugal said.

CAH selects first-, second-, and third-place winners for each grade level, kindergarten through fifth grade. Depending on surgery scheduling, Dugal and her husband, practice co-owner Randall Dugal, DVM, visit the art classroom to formally present the awards to the winners.

First place receives a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card and a gift bag of age-appropriate art supplies. Supplies can include a sketchbook, markers, crayons, stickers, glue, scissors, and more. Second- and third-place winners receive a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card.

Awards also include a letter with contest details and an offer to display the winners at CAH for the month of May, including during National Pet Week. (The art is returned to the school before the school year ends.)
“Although some students want to keep their art, many of them let us borrow their art to display at the hospital,” said Dugal. “We line our front hallway with the drawings, and encourage families to come visit. Entire families will visit to take photos of the displayed art.”

CAH’s efforts with its Pet Drawing Contest are reaping steady rewards. The local newspaper covers the awards ceremony, and CAH posts the story and images on its social media channel. But perhaps the greatest outcome of this particular community service effort is the strong roots planted 30 years ago that continue to blossom. 

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