Ruff-Start is an unincorporated non-profit association that intends to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Inspired by their former foster, now adopted, daughter and the many shelter animals they have rescued, founders Nick and Julie Koonce, see an opportunity to promote symbiosis between disadvantaged youth and animals. Disadvantaged youth and sheltered animals have a great deal to offer one another and Ruff Start is exploring programs and services to help them, to help each other.

Examples of some of the programs we hope to provide in a graduated series include;

  • Introducing disadvantaged children to shelter animals. This simple enrichment program will be an introduction to our other services. Ostensibly, just a little cuddle therapy for the kids and the animals, who both need all the love and attention they can get. The experience may simply buoy the spirits of the child and animal for a moment, or it could spark a life long passion for animals and lead to a rewarding career in animal care or training.
  • Providing disadvantaged adolescents with marketable skills and training in animal care, through a series of educational workshops and certifications.
  • Supervising volunteer work with animals, providing time to develop skills and gain valuable real world experience, which will help them in their pursuit of an animal related career.
  • Arranging mentorships with animal industry professionals.
  • Coordinating with local shelters, veterinary clinics, or boarding facilities to provide internships for qualified youth.
  • Providing scholarships to pursue higher education related to animal care.

This is just the beginning, the possibilities are many, and you can be a part of it!