Parker's Pet Project: Northern Kentucky boy donates to Kenton Co. animal shelter

Northern Kentucky Voice: Your voice. Your story.

COVINGTON, Ky. – Dogs are man's best friend. But Parker Willman may just be dog's best friend.

And cat's best friend. And bunny's best friend. And, even, a snake's best friend.

“I love animals because they’re so playful and cute. They always love you,” said Parker, of Independence, Ky., as he plopped down a heavy cardboard box, full of leashes, food, toys, (lots of toys), and of course poop bags.

It’s all the loot that he has collected over the past month to give to the Kenton County Animal Shelter’s nearly 150 homeless animals.

The 7-year-old animal lover was at the Kenton County Animal Shelter’s Pet Fair about a month ago. His family often attends adoption events, since that’s where they met Zora, their black terrier-mix, which they adopted at the Boone County Animal Shelter.

After a great day of meeting several cats and dogs, on their way home, his mom, Crissy, told his older brother Austin that he should volunteer at the shelter to help bolster his college applications. 

Parker shouted out from the back seat that he wanted to volunteer, but Crissy told him that he was too young.

Then the 2nd-grader came up with his own idea:

“I have to do something,” he remembered telling his mom. “So I came up with this.”

“This” is Parker's Pet Project, a mostly-online collection of toys for the homeless animals. 

“Maybe the dogs don’t have many toys,” he said. “Mom, I could get people to give me stuff to give to them.”

So his mom started a Facebook page, thinking it would be a cute idea for friends and family to see and contribute to her youngest son’s cause. Then, it skyrocketed.

While they thought it would be amazing to have 100 Facebook ‘likes’… they have since surpassed that number after a stint on the radio, bringing their grand total to 1,042 ‘likes', at this writing.

“All those people like pets, it feels good,” said Parker about his newfound social media fame.

Donations and ‘likes’ flew in from Chicago and South Carolina. He raised $85 toward the project. For his Sept. 13 birthday, he asked his guests to bring items toward his donation to the shelter.

“Giving them toys and food and treats makes them happy because people will play with them with their new toys,” said Parker.

Dan Evans, the shelter’s director agreed with the young visionary.

“Toys are prefect to make it not so institutionalized and challenges them physically, and mentally,” said Evans of Parker’s donations. “Toys give them comfort—some feelings of home.”

“[Toys] break the mental anguish,” he said since many of the animals come to the shelter scared not knowing where they are. But simple things like toys and treats bring them out of their shell and make them not only happier, but also more adoptable, he added.

Evans leaned down to Parker sifting through the box’s contents and shakes his little hand.

“What you’re doing is wonderful. I say ‘thank you’ and so do the animals,” he said to Parker, after giving him a tour and allowing him to play with all the animals he could.

But the words ‘thank you’ he said aren’t enough. The public should take the time and see why this child was inspired to do this act of kindness, he said, and take note.

“The most important thing is that we teach our kids it’s better to give than receive. It’s a good lesson for him to give back to the community in any way he can,” said Evans. “It’s humbling to self-sacrifice for a cause he has passion for. I look forward to see what he is when he grows up.”

His mom added:

“[It’s] just another reason to be proud of him. He has a heart of gold, he always worries about everyone else, makes sure everyone’s happy,” she said. 

If you want to donate to Parker’s Pet Project, visit his Facebook page. He said he plans to expand donation sites to other shelters once he has collected more goods and money.


Shelter's Wish List-

  • Newspapers
  • Towels
  • Blankets
  • Paper towels
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Animal treats
  • Dog/cat toys
  • Metal food bowls


Northern Kentucky Voice: Your Voice, Your Story is a periodic and ongoing series on about the people of Northern Kentucky making a difference in their community.


Photos by Jessica Noll, reporter and photojournalist for WCPO covering Northern Kentucky.

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