Teens ready to spread love and learning with toys

Staff Published:

FINDLAY (AP) -- Mission Possible, a Findlay-based nonprofit organization, operates a school for students from preschool through eighth grade on the outskirts of the town of Barahona in the Dominican Republic. Many of the families living there work at sugar cane fields and are extremely poor, said Tracy Rath, a public relations representative for Mission Possible whose husband, David, is the youth pastor at Gateway. "Some of them don't know what a lion looks like," Tracy Rath said.

The animals the children in the Dominican Republic are likely to know are farm animals such as cows, pigs, chickens as well as cats and stray dogs, which roam around.

This week, Tracy Rath is visiting the school in the Dominican Republic, traveling with Shelby Eddington, a senior at Arlington High School, and Mackenzie Lyon, a junior at Liberty-Benton High School.

Eddington said the youths at Gateway decided stuffed animals from the Toledo Zoo would be a good way to teach the children about animals all over the world. The church held a competition between grades, encouraging everyone to donate whatever amount they wished toward the stuffed animals, which cost $10 each.

They offered an incentive: while everyone went on a trip to the Toledo Zoo to see the lights display, the class that contributed the most would get to go for free. This ended up being the seventh-graders, who bought 29 animals. The youth group raised a total of almost $900.

Rath, Eddington and Lyon are also bringing books and puzzles to the children. Rath ordered Spanish-language children's books about animals online.

The group will also be doing abstinence education in the school. They left early Saturday morning and will be in the Dominican Republic through Dec. 16.

For Lyon, this will be her fifth time visiting the Dominican Republic. An enthusiastic Spanish student, she enjoys conversing with people there and likes learning about other cultures and "the relationships you build."

Rath said she and others rely on Lyon's language skills.

Eddington said she loves animals and her favorite is the sea otter. She was a Zoo Pal at the Toledo Zoo for seven consecutive years. She said she's excited to "teach them the animals that we've grown up knowing."

Arthurs: 419-427-8494 Send an e-mail to Sara Arthurs

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