West-led fundraising effort to adopt mine-detection dog moves forward

       West Middle School has expanded its CHAMPS dog fundraising effort to include three other Westside schools and is nearing the 25 percent mark in its $20,000 goal.
       West students also got a visit Nov. 16 from Kimberly McCasland, director of the CHAMPS program, who gave an assembly in which she used a retired CHAMPS dog (named Utsi) to show how such trained animals can use their noses to detect buried land mines and thus save human lives in former war zones of the world.
       CHAMPS is an acronym for Children Against Mines Program, which was started through the Marshall Legacy Institute and has sponsored about 100 of the 800-plus mine-sniffing dogs in 27 of the 72 mine-affected countries.
       Aided now by Coronado High School and Howbert and Whittier elementaries, West teacher Connie Graven's SAIL students last year decided to start raising the necessary $20,000 to train a CHAMPS dog. The group had raised about $1,900 from different activities (including a table at Territory Days, a raffle and a read-a- thon) and recently received a $1,000 donation from each of three local Rotary clubs (Broadmoor, Interquest and Downtown).
       The dog-adoption idea came from her students, Graven said, after an assembly last spring demonstrating one of the dogs and explaining how deadly the mines are. The students are also studying four of the mine-field countries (Eritrea, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Nicaragua).
       Student fundraising efforts are continuing, including sales of a mine-detection dog t-shirt. The students hope to raise the full $20,000 by April, Graven said.
       For more information, Graven's number at West is 328-3988.
       Contacts at the other schools are Whittier (teacher Terri Adams), Coronado (Student Body President Andrew Ives) and Howbert (Principal David Morse).

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