Best of Hudson Valley 2013: Best Kids Programs and Pet Services in the Hudson Valley, Upstate NY

PLUS: Readers’ Picks, including best pet store, toy store, and place to eat with kids

Editors’ Picks

Kids Doing Cool Things (3 Winners)

When Macallan Durkin (left) was only 11 years old and living in Africa with her family, she witnessed hungry children rummaging for food in the garbage. Moved by their plight, she founded Goody Goodies upon returning to the United States. The nonprofit sells fair trade items (like jewelry and T-shirts) at Women’s Work, her mother’s Poughkeepsie store. So far the proceeds have funded a Zimbabwean girl’s education, fed starving children in Botswana, and helped build a soup kitchen in Malawi. Durkin — who is about to enter her first year of college — also works a little closer to home. In June, she launched Goody Goodies’ Sweet 16 Awards, an event honoring 16 young girls who volunteer at various community organizations. In its inaugural year, 250 people — including state Assemblywoman Didi Barrett — attended the event.

» Read about Macallan’s mom, Cecilia Dinio-Durkin — one of our women in business — here

Most 12-year-olds who get their hands on a hundred bucks would probably use it to buy a new video game system. Not Carson Robinson. This upstanding young man gave his cash to the Dutchess County SPCA. Beginning in April, he collected used cans that he either solicited from friends, family, and members of his church community or found littering the ground. Each week, he cashed them in. By the start of July, he had a total of 4,400 cans. And the grand monetary total? $220. His donation bought food and supplies for the nearly 225 homeless cats living at the shelter.

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Talented artiste Olivia Pedrick sold her first painting at the ripe old age of eight. But she didn’t begin marketing them in earnest until 2011, when her mother set up a Facebook page so a few family members and friends could buy the works. Each piece features an animal — whether it be a cat, dog, turtle, or unicorn — which is appropriate, since Pedrick donates all the money she makes to local shelters. Now 11 years old, she’s completed 300 paintings, donated a total of $8,000 to 30 organizations, and amassed a Facebook following of nearly 4,000 fans. And paintings aren’t all she does: She’s organized dog washes and bake sales, and (with mom’s help) started an all-kids volunteer group in her town. Way to go, Miss Pedrick!

» Read more about Olivia’s Art for Animals here

Way For Kids To Learn The Classics

The Bard’s works come alive for kids who take part in this acting troupe. It’s made up of 80 Rockland County youth aged eight to 18 who work together to produce five Shakespeare plays annually, which are performed primarily during the school year at various venues around the county. “We currently have three companies: the Knaves, eight-14 year olds; the Rogues, 14-18 year olds; and the Strange Bedfellows, adults who began as a group of enthusiastic parents and fans and are now a solid community theater company,” says Diana Green, the theater’s founder and creative director — as well as a trained Montessori teacher. The main goal of the nonprofit theater — last season’s shows included Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth — is to offer young thespians a chance to experience Shakespeare’s words, acquire acting skills, and share what they’ve learned with audiences made up of other kids and adults, Green says. And youngsters who are more comfortable behind the scenes can help with set design and costumes. The young actors sometimes leave the stage to make appearances at local schools, too — speaking about their love of Shakespeare and performing scenes for English and theater-arts classes and assemblies. 845-262-0278;

Way To Give Your Kids A Competitive Advantage

For all you type-A parents, it’s never too early to start your child on the road to global domination. In the future, that will most likely require speaking Mandarin — so as soon as your baby can balance on two feet, enroll her at the Mid-Hudson Chinese Language Center. Kids as young as three can learn to speak the language through games, songs, and group play. All of the center’s classes are structured for families whether or not they have any prior knowledge of Mandarin. So you might pick up the language, too, since parents are encouraged to join their child in class to help with home practice. 845-345-0343;

Best Cool Class For Kids

Korey Findley, who grew up working on his family farm and became a chef, caterer, and culinary arts teacher, says: “My mission is to spread awareness of healthy food.” He did that this summer with his first Gardening and Cooking classes at the Wallkill River School of Art, for children ages four and up. “I wanted to teach where food comes from, how to grow it and cook it,” he says. And hundreds of youth, including low-income kids on scholarship and special needs children, made it “a smashing success.” Findley will continue teaching after-school classes this fall. Kids will learn to grow fresh vegetables and herbs and prepare them in easy, healthy, and child-friendly recipes. 845-457- 2787;

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macallan durkin

hudson valley dockdogsPhotograph by Jim Lyons

Dog Days (3 Winners)

Whether your otterhound has Olympic aspirations or your spaniel just likes to splash around, Hudson Valley DockDogs puts your pup in the swim of things.
The 80-member local chapter of this national organization has its own 40-foot-long practice pool, based at Millerton’s Ledgewood Kennel, which is used to train animals in the sport of dock diving. Roughly equivalent to doggie track and field, canines go muzzle-to-muzzle in competitions that measure how far and high they can jump, and how fast they can swim. With prizes awarded in amateur, semipro, and pro divisions, these contests can get intense — but not dog-eat-dog, says organization spokesman Todd Bender. “The primary reason for doing this is just to be outdoors and watch our pets enjoying themselves,” he says. “We’re just happy bystanders.” Open dock sessions are held regularly in season to give new pooches a chance to test the waters.

K-9 POOL PARTY Suffern
After surviving the dog days of summer, pooches in the town of Ramapo (and anywhere else, for that matter) are invited to go for a swim in Suffern’s Spook Rock Pool. Now in its 10th year, the September splash-fest was conceived jointly by the town board and the parks department as a fun, end-of-the-season event for pups and their owners. For a $5 donation ($10 for nonresidents), Fido can frolic to his heart’s content; the funds collected are divvied up between local animal welfare organizations, including the Hudson Valley Humane Society. 845-357-6100

Much more than just a ramble with Rover, this doggie fun fair in Bowdoin Park includes a variety of activities (kanine karaoke, anyone?) and competitions (best tail wagger) for your pup, as well as agility demos and visits from local police K-9 units. Hosted by the Dutchess County SPCA, the annual shindig is also a fundraiser for the organization, which brought in more than $36,000 in 2012. (This year’s Petwalk takes place on Oct. 5.) 845-454-5346;

Readers’ Picks

Baby/Children’s Boutique

QUACKLES Poughkeepsie. 845-471-2250;

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Pet Store

BEACON BARKERY Beacon. 845-440-7652;

Place to Eat With Kids

BABA LOUIE’S PIZZA Hudson 518-751-2155;

Toy Store

LAND OF OZ Rhinebeck. 845-876-1918

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» View all Best of Hudson Valley winners (listings format)


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