Teen Wins Essay Contest And Donates Winnings – GNSOTD Tue, Jan. 12th 2021

13-year-old Sidney Hertzberg, of Ferndale, Michigan, entered into an essay contest that was put on by PetCo. She wrote about how the kitten she had adopted that she says has been a saving grace in her life and become a furever furry friend.

Sidney loves cats. She volunteers at the Ferndale Cat Shelter, and it was that work which inspired her to enter into the national essay contest. “I figured OK, let’s write a story maybe by some miraculous reason we’ll get in the top something,” she said.

She wanted to write about her experiences. Sidney says the essay was right from the heart, writing about what she’s going through personally and how her adopted kitten Mr. Mittens is helping her, and apparently that showed through to the judges. Not only did she make it to the top, she won.

Along with her win she received a $50,000 prize, which when she received she could not believe. “When I opened the check, my eyes… it was just crazy,” she said. “My heart skipped a beat.”

But she knew what to do with it. She didn’t keep it to spend on a cell phone or on a car she wouldn’t be able to use for years, nor did she set it aside for her education. Sidney received the money because of her love of cats, and that is where the money went. She donated all $50,000 to the Ferndale Cat Shelter where she volunteers.

In making the donation she recognized that the adopted cat she got from the shelter has saved her as much as she saved him. “I have an illness called POTS and so with some of the symptoms that come with the illness are dizziness, fatigue and muscle aches,” Sidney said. “My cat Mr. Mittens, I got him when he was 4 ounces and he was about a week old, so he was very, very small and he had to be bottle-fed. And I really thought I was going to help save his life, but I did not even know he would actually help save mine.”

The shelter was aware of what was going on the whole time. “When I got a call from Petco saying that we were in the running to win a prize, I just balled on the phone,” said Deanne Iovan, executive director Ferndale Cat Shelter.

Sidney figured this donation would be a perfect ending to 2020 that had been such a tough time for so many people.

But Sidney’s not done with just the donation! She is starting a program with the shelter, called Sidney’s Seniors for Seniors, which will take senior cats and place them with senior citizens with all food and medical bills paid for by the shelter. You can learn more about Sidney and her journey, also watch the video interview, in your Good News Story of the Day here.

If there is a bigger heart for cats than Sidney’s it would be a shock to learn of it. Though it is nice to know that Mr. Mittens is staying healthy and active. “He’s awesome. He’s swimming, he’s hiking, climbing, he’s skateboarding, he’s doing everything,” Sydney said.

Story and Image from ABC’s WXYZ Detroit.

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