Chelsea Fernandes, a South Hadley High School junior and daughter of two Mount Holyoke community members--Linda and Michael Fernandes--has raised more than $18,000 of the $20,000 needed to adopt and train a mine-detecting dog that will be named "South Hadley." She is hoping to raise the last $2,000 that is needed to fund the project during the month of April.
Chelsea is working with the Marshall Legacy Institute in Virginia, which sponsors the Children Against Mines program, also know as CHAMPS. The program exists to educate children about the threat of land mines and helps them to raise money to "adopt" or support a mine-detecting dog.
There are currently 800 dogs working in 29 countries around the world. The teams of dogs are able to search 1,500 square meters a day, far more than other methods of mine detection. During a dog's working life, usually six to eight years, it is able to search and clear over two million square meters of land.
Raising $20,000 is a huge project, and Chelsea has been busy. Last May she hosted former Clinton national security adviser Anthony Lake at Mosier School for an assembly, where Rosa, a 12-year-old Belgian Malinois who spent seven years "sniffing out" land mines in Lebanon and other countries, gave a demonstration for the children. A simulated mine field was set up in the gymnasium and Rosa showed how the dogs detect the land mines. She was quite a hit. Rosa will be featured on an upcoming Wednesday night episode on Animal Planet. She has also been invited to the United Nations for a Landmine Awareness Tribute.
Since the campaign began, Chelsea has written letters to members of the Mount Holyoke community; had a three-mile walk-a-thon that involved the children of Mosier School; written 120 letters to celebrities requesting autographs for a silent auction; sold 5,000 raffle tickets, in which the first prize was $500; given a presentation to the South Hadley Lion's Club, solicited donations in a letter to the business community that was cowritten with State Representative John Scibak; and is planning a car wash that will take place in South Hadley Saturday, April 29.
On May 3, Chelsea will travel to Washington, DC, for the "2006 Clearing the Path Gala," which will be hosted by the Marshall Legacy Institute. This year's honorees include senators Tom Harkin and John McCain, Radosavz Zivkovic from STOP Mines, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, Apollo Junior High Pre-AP Geography Class from Texas, and the Landmine Detection Dog Team of the Year. The emcee for the gala will be George Stephanopoulos from ABC News.
Once the $20,000 goal has been reached, "South Hadley" will be trained and sent to work in Bosnia. Chelsea has been invited by the CHAMPS program to travel to Bosnia in July. She will travel with other students from around the country who have been working to fund dogs of their own.
A tax-deductible donation can be sent to Peoples Savings Bank, 494 Newton St., South Hadley, MA 01075. Checks should be made out to "Marshall Legacy-South Hadley."
The Marshall Legacy Institute