By Isiah REYES
Two La Crescenta teens are on a quest to help raise awareness of canine lymphoma and they’ve been doing it in a number of ways.
Maddie Patriarca and Isabelle Buenaflor are two eighth graders who attend a private school in Tujunga. As part of their graduation requirement, they were required to complete a synthesis project. This meant that that the girls had to participate in community service to experience the benefits of helping others and to document their experience. They could do anything from fundraising to volunteer work.
The two teens decided to work with CLEAR (Canine Lymphoma Education Awareness and Research), a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of canine lymphoma. The disease is one of the most common cancers in dogs, with nearly 300,000 cases diagnosed annually in the United States. Without treatment, a dog may die within weeks.
“Maddie introduced me to CLEAR,” said Buenaflor. “When I found out about it, I knew in my heart that I wanted to help. Community service is important, because it keeps the heart good. The world can be a dangerous place nowadays, but there is always some good to try to balance it out. Helping others, or animals in this case, is part of the lasting good in the world. And I want to add to the good.”
The first fundraising event the girls hosted was a Valentine’s dance held on Feb. 15 at Oak Creek Corral in Santa Clarita. The owner of the facility, Tracy Boldroff, donated the ranch for the evening’s event. The girls and their moms worked nonstop to acquire auction items and to find entertainment and sell tickets. By the end of the night, the hard work had paid off. In terms of proceeds raised, it’s a secret for now, but the girls set the bar high for future graduates.
However, this was only the beginning of Patriarca’s and Buenaflor’s involvement with the community. Their next project will be to assist in presentations of the film, “My Friend: Changing the Journey,” a documentary on canine lymphoma produced for CLEAR and directed by Stacey Zipfel, Patriarca’s aunt. The presentations will be at animal hospitals.
“The movie is doing well in festivals and we hope to eventually be able to offer it free to anyone whose dog is diagnosed with the disease,” said Zipfel.
This is her debut as a director. She has worked in the past as producer for “Look up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman” made for Warner Bros. and DC Comics as well as “Elvis: Return to Tupelo.”
The film “My Friend: Changing the Journey” won best documentary at the Los Angeles Movie Awards and medals at the International Independent Film Awards (gold for best original song, silver for directing, documentary feature and narration). It will eventually be available on the CLEAR website once all prior obligations are met.
“Cancer is a disease in which education and awareness are our best allies,” Zipfel said. “If we know what to look for and understand treatment, we can achieve better cure rates. Unfortunately, a great deal of people doesn’t even realize that dogs get cancer. I wanted to help change that.”
The film’s executive producer is Terry Simons, an internationally recognized dog agility competitor and trainer, former Animal Planet commentator, and the one who established CLEAR in 2012. Buenaflor and Patriarca chose to support CLEAR after they attended fundraisers and the premiere of the film.
But it wasn’t the film that gave the girls a love of animals. That love has been with them all along. Both girls want to help animals as a career. Patriarca wants to become a large animal vet and Buenaflor wants to focus her career in marine biology.
“Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had a fascination with animals,” Buenaflor said. “Whether it was the way they acted or what they ate, I’ve always wanted to find out more.”
Although she loved animals, Buenaflor had an allergy to pet dander so she had to limit her contact with furry animals. It was at an aquarium that she realized she could help animals in a way that did not provoke her allergies.
“Helping animals simply makes me whole as a human being,” Buenaflor said.
The pair plan to continue doing volunteer work at veterinary clinics and perhaps hold one more fundraiser.
“I am so impressed with the dedication of these two girls that I thought their story would be an inspiration to other teens,” Zipfel said. “In these troubled times, it makes me feel good to know that there are still kids out there that want to change the world.”