RedRover CEO Nicole Forsyth on 'Kind News' and Teaching Children About Animal Welfare | MUTTS

RedRover CEO Nicole Forsyth on ‘Kind News’ and Teaching Children About Animal Welfare

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For over a decade, the MUTTS comic strip has appeared in Kind News Magazine, a children’s publication created by The Humane Society of the United States. Since its debut in 1983, Kind News has taught kids — and sometimes even their parents and teachers — more about animals and how to care for them.

Kind News will enter a new chapter this summer as its publication changes hands from The HSUS to RedRover, another national animal welfare organization. We’re happy to confirm that the MUTTS comic strip will remain in the magazine, which is distributed every two months, September through May.

Kind News with MUTTS
A sneak peek at the 2017 fall issue of ‘Kind News’. (Courtesy of RedRover)

We’re also excited for this opportunity to support the kind folks at RedRover, a terrific non-profit that provides emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, and financial assistance to animals in crisis situations. In addition to its emergency services, RedRover has also created an educational program (RedRover Readers) designed to help children increase their empathy for animals and humans.

To learn more about RedRover and the future of Kind News, we spoke with Nicole Forsyth, RedRover’s CEO and President.

MUTTS: Can you describe one or two of your most fulfilling memories since working with RedRover?

Nicole: Wow, there have been so many over the last 10 years! I have dozens of stories that come to mind. The ones that really move me are those where our actions gave people a renewed sense of hope, and this happens a lot. For example, we helped a young veteran with an emergency veterinary grant for his hero dog Bane. This dog had quite literally prevented Michael from taking his own life. We helped a domestic violence survivor, Shari, escape a dangerously abusive situation and get back on her feet by helping her find temporary housing for her two large dogs.

As RedRover CEO and President, what does a typical day look like for you?

One of the things I love most about RedRover is our team atmosphere. We really understand each other’s strengths and can pivot quickly when emergencies come up. For me this means there is rarely a “typical” day. In addition to building relationships with key constituents for the organization, my primary roles include keeping the RedRover office culture strong and working with our Board of Directors. Because we’re so small, I often have the opportunity to not just lead, but get in there and join a RedRover Responders deployment or facilitate a RedRover Readers workshop, for example. I write and edit frequently, including for our newest interactive graphic novel app, The Restricted Adventures of Raja. This has been an amazing, challenging experience and quite unique. And now I’m serving as the editor for Kind News!

How did RedRover come to acquire Kind News? Will the magazine be incorporated into your RedRover Readers program?

I have always believed in this magazine from the moment I saw it, so when RedRover’s Education and Outreach Director, Karly Noel, was alerted to the need for the magazine to find a new home, we jumped on the opportunity quickly. Karly is a Board Director for the Association of Professional Humane Educators (APHE), along with Dr. Stephanie Itle-Clark, the President of APHE. Dr. Itle-Clark is the former Director of Learning at The HSUS, and she worked closely with Kind News. Over the years we have had a wonderful collaborative relationship with Stephanie and The Humane Society Academy.

Kind News will be incorporated into the RedRover Readers program as another wonderful resource for our growing list of schools and teachers using our RedRover Readers program as well as a standalone tool for expanding awareness about the value of being kind to animals.

Why do you think it’s important to provide children with animal-related education?

In addition to building awareness early about animal welfare issues, helping kids understand animals and providing opportunities to practice skills necessary for empathy will impact how they treat both animals and people.

Often, a child’s relationship with a companion animal in the home is the first relationship they have any control over, and setting the stage for a healthy early relationship with pets will help kids develop stronger bonds with companion animals throughout their lives, as well as in other relationships. Research suggests that empathy development may be the best path to reducing violent acts, including animal cruelty.

What new types of content can readers expect to see in Kind News now that RedRover has taken over? What topics do you hope to focus on?

Readers can expect to see a lot of the same content and style that has been so well-loved over the years. Because RedRover focuses primarily on companion animal welfare, there will not be as much content pertaining to wildlife or farm animals. However, we will use every opportunity to weave in wildlife and farm animals where we can, especially in areas where students have the opportunity to compare species and explore human-animal relationships. In addition, Kind News will continue to highlight books in the “Book Nook,” featuring many of the books from RedRover’s humane-themed literature list. Readers may also notice that beginning with the September issue, Kind News will incorporate many of the strategies used in the RedRover Readers program to help students understand animal behavior and practice the skills necessary for empathy to develop.

Any additional RedRover news you’d like us to share with our readers?

The second book and game in our interactive graphic novel app, The Restricted Adventures of Raja, will be released by the end of the year! The app can be downloaded for free in both iTunes and Google Play stores. In addition, this year is RedRover’s 30th Anniversary, and we are celebrating how RedRover and other organizations are putting their best #pawsforward to help animals and spread compassion. Learn how to join the #pawsforward campaign at RedRover.org, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

(This interview has been edited for length.)

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