Student-founded animal club benefits Last Hope shelter


Christmas came early for Last Hope Animal Rescue, in Wantagh, last month thanks to students from W.T. Clarke High School. Teens in the high school’s Dog Rescue Club collected supplies for Last Hope for two weeks before dropping them off on Dec. 15.

Hundreds of dog toys, leashes, collars, blankets, beds, treats and cleaning supplies were delivered to the center, on Beltagh Avenue, by Clarke senior and club founder Ella Noonan, her twin sister, Brooke, and their mother Maura.

“It’s a great club,” Joanne Anderson, the shelter’s outreach coordinator, said. “We couldn’t be more thankful. It’s just so nice to see young people involved.”

Noonan founded the club in February 2020, when she was a sophomore. “I started this club because I felt like we didn’t have an animal-based club for the community,” she said. “Most people here have dogs and like dogs, and I thought it would be a great thing to educate high school students about.”

More than 50 students showed up for the club’s first meeting two years ago, and shared ideas about what the club should do and where they could help animals in need. Less than a month later, the high school shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

These days, the club is booming, with more than 100 members. Some middle-school students have even expressed an interested in joining, Noonan said.

Throughout the pandemic, members held virtual meetings on Zoom. Now there are in-person meetings once a month.

Donation boxes were set up in Clarke’s traffic circle from Nov. 29 to Dec. 13. Within days they were overflowing with supplies. “The box had wrapping paper and bows on it,” Brooke Noonan explained. “Teachers, students and parents of kids who weren’t in the high school dropped stuff off, too.”

Anderson said that it took a long time to put away the supplies they received, simply because of the sheer volume of the donations. Ella Noonan said the organization was “in shock” over how many items the club donated. “They were overwhelmed in a good way,” she said.

When the sisters dropped off the supplies, they were given a tour of the center, and met some of the dogs.

This wasn’t the first time that the club has worked with Last Hope. Last year, despite the pandemic, club officers delivered two bags full of supplies — as well as another bag to Levittown’s Second Chance Animal Rescue, and a bag of canned food to LI Helpers, a youth-led nonprofit that distributes food to local families in need, that was founded by Clarke alumna Misha Khan.

Around Thanksgiving, the Dog Rescue Club partnered with the high school’s Key Club — a student service club that works with East Meadow Kiwanis — to create thank-you cards for Last Hope volunteers. Brooke Noonan is the president of Key Club, and Ella is vice president.

“To have outside kids thank the volunteers for what they do and what they love to do is so nice,” Anderson said. “It’s like the icing on the cake.”

The Key Club helped generate some members for the Dog Rescue Club. The thank-you card project was created by Brooke, but inspired by a similar Key Club project that created cards for veterans and health care workers.

Looking ahead, Ella said, she and Brooke have plenty of ideas for the club. They’d like to organize a dog-walk fundraiser, in which people and their pets walk laps on the high school track to raise money for local organizations like Last Hope.

They would also like to bring therapy dogs to the school. Anderson said she would be open to working with the club to make that happen. “It would help the dogs with their training, because Joanne said that they haven’t been able to work in a while,” Brooke said. “But it would also be beneficial to students — especially if it was during A.P. exams and finals as a stress-reliever.”

Even though the Noonans are now seniors, they have high hopes for the future of the Dog Rescue Club. Anderson said the group can continue to evolve. “If this club now has 100 members,” she said, “it should live on.”