Orchard Grad Honored by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Wins Outstanding Youth Achievement Award
For Sophia Pruitt ’17, it all started with a lemonade stand and an innate love of animals.
In May of 2010, Sophia opened a lemonade stand on Lemonade Day to raise money for the Humane Society of Indianapolis (HSI). She dressed up as a Dalmatian and happily walked her $70 into HSI. They gave her a tour and she saw how many puppies and kittens were in need. From that year on, every birthday party has been a fundraiser for the HSI.
However, Sophia didn’t just use her birthday parties to raise awareness. She started Hoops for Hounds Night in 2013 with the Indiana Pacers and Fever. These are nights where you can order tickets from a special link that will benefit the HSI and provide special opportunities including VIP pre-game viewing and a chance to cut down the net!
Today, Sophia has partnered with many organizations and turned that $70 into over $19,000 for animals in need. She’s also been a foster mom to over 60 animals and has currently raised almost $3000 for a new play yard at IndyHumane.
Sophia’s dedication was recognized last month when she received the 2018 Outstanding Youth Achievement Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Indiana Chapter. She was nominated by the Humane Society of Indianapolis and the Lilly Endowment, Inc.
Watch her wonderful acceptance speech below. Sophia addresses the room full of adults with such confidence and grace, a true Orchard grad!
The Orchard community has been very fortunate to see Sophia’s love of animals start and blossom into something much more than a passion project, but rather something Sophia calls “the most important thing in my life.”
Read our Q&A with Sophia below and see photos from her journey thus far.
You’ve gone from using your birthday as a fundraiser to working with the Indiana Pacers/Fever, and from being recognized by the Humane Society of Indianapolis to receiving the OYA Award. What is the ultimate goal for you?
Ironically, I think my goal is to not have one. I want to keep pushing the limits of what I do and how long I do it. Someone I highly look up to is Jane Goodall because she has worked on primatology, ecology, and philanthropic work her entire life. Her ability to create real life and lasting solutions to complex problems and never give up on expanding her mission is inspiring. Ultimately, I want to create something that keeps expanding and provides solutions far into the future.
Speaking of the Humane Society, we heard you’ve been on rescue trips with them. That must be a rollercoaster of emotions.
Yes, it was very overwhelming. When you experience how bad the problem is, it can seem frustrating and despairing. However, I also got to see the positive outcome of people taking action against these problems. Taking the animals back to the shelter was very uplifting as they were literally freed and given the life they deserved. Saving animals from kill shelters is very emotional, but essential. Once, in the middle my brother's 3rd grade poetry night, we got a call from the Humane Society explaining that two newborn orphaned kittens had just came in and could be euthanized by animal control if they couldn't find a foster home by that night. The second the event was over, we ran over to the shelter and brought them home. It was very emotional, but exiting when we returned them to the shelter a few months later as growing, healthy, and sassy kittens ready for a forever home.
Where did your love of animals start?
It seems as though this is a trait that has always been a part of me. My parents have stories of me as a two-year-old obsessed with my animal toys, reading animal books, and educating them on the different species at the zoo. When the idea came to me to try charity work, the first thing I thought of was animals. My brownie troop at Orchard helped me make dog treats and cat toys in our meeting to donate to the Humane Society. My second-grade teachers pushed me to be Jane Goodall for our "wax museum" project. It seemed that whatever I was doing, the answer was, naturally, animals.
How did The Orchard School support your passion for fundraising and fostering animals?
When I was throwing my huge birthday party fundraisers, I invited my entire grade. It became a sort of tradition before the school year started and my classmates even saved up money throughout the year to donate at my party. When I started the Hoops for Hounds night with the Indiana Fever, the sports teams and scout troops would buy exclusive group tickets. Many of my classmates, from all grades, and even teachers came.
Last year, your siblings (Francesca ’18 & Harrison ’21), along with the Cross-Country team, held a “Run for the Dawgs and Cats” here at Orchard. Can the Orchard community anticipate any future events? And how can they help in the meantime?
As far as upcoming events, there will be another Hoops for Hounds night in March of next year. This is a Pacer game in which tickets sold through us have a part of the profit donated to the Humane Society. Participants can also experience special opportunities, such as lining the tunnel as the players come out, being a ball kid, or even picking the half-time show depending on how many tickets are sold. This is a pretty fun event for Orchard to continue to participate in. In the meantime, spreading some warmth to your local animal shelter this holiday season has a bigger impact than you might think. Whether than means choosing to adopt instead of shopping for a specific breed, foster an animal for a few weeks, or just make a small donation, the winter season is tough for shelters and they could use the extra support. I would also love for some of my Orchard friends to join my Mutt Strut pack on April 27th.
Progressive education tenet: We foster active citizenship and stewardship rooted in justice, integrity, character, ethics and courageous compassion.