TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The boys cross country team at George M. Steinbrenner High School follows a simple philosophy composed of three words: gentleman, scholar, athlete.
The first category is met with community service. In an effort to fulfill that category, the team meets at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay around 6:45 a.m. every weekday during the summer. They choose their running buddies and, then, they drive to the trail at Al Lopez Park.
“I remember that this is bigger than me, this is bigger than us as a team,” said Zach Harrigan, a junior on the cross country team. “We are affecting these dogs and we are more importantly impacting the community.”
The team has partnered with the humane society for the past three years. They run with the dogs over the summer and over holiday breaks. The goal is to introduce them to a normal routine.
“This is Baba,” Harrigan said as he glanced at the large dog stretched out at his feet. “Baba, I believe is 3 or 4 years old and we have been running with Baba for one week or two weeks now. I feel like we are kind of training them.”
Theses high school runners “train them” and, afterward, they pound miles and miles of pavement at practice. Their dedication to these dogs is admirable.
“After the dogs run with us and they come back,” said PJ Foreman, a senior on the team, “they understand what we do, I think, and they almost kind of run with us and work with us. Some of them are so filled with joy and energy so to take them out here it is really, really good for their health.”
“When we run with them, we tire them out,” added Harrigan. “Some people, when they walk in and see them jumping around and barking, they kind of shy away from them. We get all of their little nerves out I like to think, then, they really shine in the humane society.”
Glen Hatchell, an animal trainer at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, told 8 On Your Side’s Gabrielle Shirley the program is one of several key enrichment programs responsible for helping these dogs to find new families.
“My favorite part,” said Harrigan, “honestly, is just the fact knowing that the dogs are getting adopted and that it is really making an impact. Some things that you do community service wise you cannot always see the impact but we clearly see the impact. The dogs get adopted which is the best thing.”
Hatchell also said the program with the cross country team sparked another similar program. You are able to volunteer to walk the dogs on Saturday mornings. If you would like to become a volunteer, you can find the information on the Humane Society of Tampa Bay website.
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