Instead of candles and cake for his 12th birthday, an 11-year-old Rocklands boy is collecting donations for an animal-welfare organisation.
Riley Valentine’s birthday is on Wednesday September 27, and he hopes to see his collections for the Animal Welfare Society of South Africa in Philippi grow by Sunday September 24 so he has enough time to sort through the donations.
This is not the first time Riley has turned his birthday into a charity drive for needy animals. In 2021, we reported on how he used his 10th birthday in support of animal welfare (“Birthday boy Riley collects gifts for four-legged friends” Plainsman September 15, 2021).
Riley loves all kinds of animals but has a special love for dogs. “They cannot speak so they need us as humans to care for them and protect them. I can relate easily with dogs because I have a book I studied about dogs and cats, but I love dogs the most,” he said.
He has two Jack Russells, Milo, 6, who celebrates his birthday on October 30, and Milly, 2, who celebrates her birthday on December 24.
Riley needs dog or cat food, blankets, leashes, bowls, and pet toys. Donors can also give money.
“Most of the pets I donate to don’t have owners and live in a shelter until a family is able to adopt them. Imagine that was you: having to wait for months or years to be chosen and loved,” he said.
The Seaview Primary School Grade 6 pupil, who hopes to be a vet one day, started volunteering at the Philippi shelter when he was 9. He played with the dogs, cleaned their feeding bowls and took them for runs.
He hasn’t been there in a while but looks forward to seeing them on his birthday.
Allan Perrins, a spokesman for the Animal Welfare Society of South Africa, said Riley might only be 11 but he was making a big impact in society.
“His initiative is amazing. His compassion appears to be limitless. His love for animals is undeniable and his generosity of heart and spirit is to be commended. Well done to his parents for helping him in this way. We look forward to hosting Riley and his friends again.”
Riley’s mom, Venetia Valentine, said she was very proud of her son. “His volunteering at the Animal Welfare helped him heal from epilepsy. Playing with the dogs was therapeutic,” she said.
She saw Riley’s passion for animals when he picked up a bloodied dog from the road after it had been hit by a car. The family tried to save the dog but it was too late.
Riley was 10 when he had an informal dog shelter at home. “It was hectic, we had strange dogs coming in from the streets, some came to eat and then left and others stayed,” Ms Valentine said.
Riley’s dad, Rick-Lee Valentine, said they tried to nurture his passion and help him reach his goal of feeding dogs, and his little sister, Marley, said she was excited about the project as she always helped him with planning and ideas.
Riley encourages all dog owners to take care of their dogs so they never end up abandoned in a shelter.
“If you cannot afford a dog, don’t take on one. If you can volunteer at the Animal Welfare, please call them or check their website on awscape.org.za,” he said.
Donations can be dropped off at his home at 12 Cumulus Street, Rocklands, Mitchell’s Plain or WhatsApp Ms Valentine at 072 220 4255.