Erika Sloan, 13, of Simsbury, Conn., an eighth-grader at Henry James Memorial School, formed a youth volunteer organization that has raised close to $10,000 for a variety of animal-welfare groups by selling animal-related merchandise. Erika launched "Kids for Paws" with her sister in 2005 after seeing news reports of stranded pets on the Gulf Coast after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. "Images of animals stranded and people tearfully speaking of pets left behind tore at our hearts, and we knew we had to do something," said Erika. They designed a paw print logo; ordered specially designed bracelets, shirts, magnets, car stickers and other animal-themed merchandise; and recruited nearly 50 other young people to help them sell the items to family and friends and throughout the community. The proceeds have been donated to organizations such as Noah's Wish, the Connecticut Humane Society and Animal Friends of Connecticut, to pay for food and veterinary bills and to run rescue facilities. Erika's group also has conducted towel and blanket drives to comfort shelter animals, and sent supplies such as paw protectors, cooling vests and goggles to U.S. military war dogs serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I hope we have helped our community realize how much needs to be done to help our voiceless, less fortunate animal friends," said Erika.