It is inspiring and moving to hear stories about people performing wonderful things for their communities. A new campaign, 5-hour ENERGY® Helps Amazing People, is putting the spotlight on these unsung champions by recognizing outstanding people who, despite their own challenges, also give their time and energy to make the lives of others better. Every week one these “local heroes” has been awarded $50,000—think of it as a MacArthur award for everyday people doing good work.
The idea came from Manoj Bhargava, 5-hour Energy Drink’s founder, who posed the question to his marketing department: “Why only pay celebrities or athletes? Why not give to the real heroes?”
One of the recent honorees is Kristina Rinaldi, the Development Associate and volunteer coordinator for Detroit Dogs Rescue (DDR), an organization founded in 2010 to help the plight of the dogs in Detroit—both the thousands of homeless dogs who roam the streets, and those living with people in need of support.
Rinaldi has helped or rescued more than 1,500 dogs and in many ways, she relates to the dogs she helps. She spent most of her childhood and teenage years in and out of foster homes or sleeping on couches of friends and relatives. At age 13 she was working for drug dealers helping throw Rave parties and by age 15 she was rapping in the hip-hop scene. There she became friends with Daniel “Hush” Carlisle, a rapper who founded DDR and who became her mentor. After putting herself through college and getting a job at a hospital, Kristina joined DDR to follow her passion of helping dogs.
Now Rinaldi coordinates volunteers to help rescue and foster many dogs who would otherwise be put down. She also does community outreach and brings dog food and even doghouses (made by local Eagle Scouts and other youth groups) to pet owners who won’t surrender their dogs but need extra help taking care of them.
And it was a total surprise when she was handed the $50,000 award. When we spoke with her recently, she acknowledged that she had no idea that she was going to win any money and “was completely blown away by it.”
I asked her why they don’t have more help with this horrible situation. As she describes it, “Detroit looks like a looks like a Third World country. There are dogs everywhere living in abandoned buildings, fending for themselves.” It is estimated that there might be as many as 50,000 living like this—in a major U.S. city! And adds that she wonders why the “National Guard isn’t coming to help us.” A question that we certainly want to ask as well.
But DDR is now has plans to build the first no-kill shelter in Detroit. And while they are trying to raise money for that project, they still provide vaccination and spay and neutering clinics. They also “do a lot of community outreach. There are many people who lost their jobs in the auto industry and who have dogs, but now they have to choose between feeding their dogs and feeding their families. Hush will go out to them and give them six months of dog food to help them to get back on their feet,” Renaldi added.
As for those doghouses, Kristina admits that she just “loves Eagle Scouts, they are fabulous and they also tap into at-risk youth, combining the building of the houses with a shop class. We are always try to keep the youth involved.”
I asked why helping dogs is so important to her and she replied that, “A dog has always helped me, helped me through whatever. No matter how you unfamiliar and lost you feel, that a dog will make you feel at home and that they are your best friend. I’ve always had a passion for dogs.” So it is fine with her that, as she says, she and her colleagues “have turned our lives over to the dogs, this is all we do. It consumes our lives.”
It is great that 5-hour ENERGY® Helps has chosen Kristina Rinaldi, and her work with the DDR, as a recipient of one of their awards, but DDR still needs our help. See how you can help.