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If anyone has deserves the honor to serve as veterinarian for day, you would have to consider a girl who turned away any birthday presents in favor of soliciting donations to help pets in need.

VCA Associates in Pet Care in Waukesha certainly thought so.

It was just a few weeks ago that Hannah Okel, 10, a student at Waukesha STEM Academy Randall Campus decided to ask for donations to Camp Bow Wow Buddies Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides grants of up to $2,500 for individuals, shelters, and rescue groups across North America who cannot afford necessary medical care for a particular dog.

In lieu of presents, she raised raised $2,129, which was matched by Camp Bow Wow for a total of $4,300.

To further show its appreciation beyond verbal praise, Camp Bow Wow reached out to VCA, an affiliate, with Hannah’s story of generosity, and she was given a gift in return.

“They called us over and let us know that she wanted to be a vet, and we reached out to help her with that,” said Sarajenie Smith, Central Region marketing manager for VCA, who added that VCA officials were so impressed with Hannah’s fundraising effort that they thought, “let’s jump in and let her know what she did was great.”

Vet experience

Hannah spent March 10 working as a vet for a day at VCA Associates in Pet Care Animal Hospital in Waukesha.

It's not opportunity afforded to people her age too often – in fact, hospital manager Rabia Malik said that Hannah is the first minor that has shadowed the facility's staff.

Staff greeted Hannah that morning with a lab coat and stethoscope for her use, and some breakfast.

Hannah had the opportunity to check the heart rate on a dog, weigh a dog, check out a skin graph sample under a microscope, and see some patients with a vet. Hannah stated that she learned that the easiest way to get blood from a dog is through their neck.

“It was a really fun day,” Malik said.

At the same time, the experience really showed Hannah the full spectrum of what it takes to be a vet. Some might think that being a vet is just playing with puppies and kittens, and that pets only come in for wellness examples. Not Hannah, who experience the critical elements of the job from behind the scenes, explained Malik.

“She was really brave and jumped right in,” Malik said, adding that staff members “were all super excited for her to be there" and that "they all embraced it and took it on.”

Her day ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., so “it was a long day for her,” Malik said, but “it definitely solidified her plans of being a vet in the future. She really enjoyed the experience.”

For her part, Hannah appreciated the opportunity.

“I thought it was very fun and very inspirational because I got to learn a whole bunch of things about being a vet. That experience made me want to be a vet even more,” Hannah said. “It was a great experience.”

Earning praise

Staff certainly recognized how special Hannah is. Malik herself told Hannah many times throughout the day that she’s one of the most incredible girls she has met.

A lot of people forget about the needs of pets, and Hannah’s fundraising was “the greatest selfless act I’ve seen in a long time,” Malik said.

Her parents don't need to be told her special their daughter is.

“I am very lucky to have such a kind, caring daughter,” said Monica Okel, Hannah’s mother. “Everything she did for her 10th birthday was all her idea.”

Hannah’s father, Dave Okel, shares similar feelings.

“I’m inspired by Hannah’s want and desire to help others,” he said. “She is humble and her actions are focused on what she can do to make a difference. I look forward to watching how her heart and kindness guide her throughout her life and what she does to make the world a better place.”

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