Kam Gottleib got the idea to place treadmills in animal shelters after visiting a shelter near her family’s summer cabin in Michigan.
“We go there every year, and I got to see how the shelter runs, and that was kind of an eye-opener for me,” Kam says. “I really wanted to help more, because I saw the dogs’ lifestyles, and I saw that it was nothing like the dogs here.”
Kam, 12, launched Kinetic K-9’s in 2010.
The Highcrest Middle School 6th grader started the nonprofit organization to purchase animal treadmills for area shelters, particularly those that house large-breed dogs.
“I wanted to do something with exercise since the main goal is to get them adopted, and sometimes exercise comes second (at shelters),” Kam says. “If they get more exercise, they will be more adoptable, because they’ll be physically healthier.”
Kam’s mother, Susan Gottleib, says she thought Kam’s idea was the perfect solution to the problem of lack of exercise for shelter dogs, since many volunteers are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work and the number of animals to care for at one time.
“The volunteers are limited, and working at their desk so (with these treadmills), they can put it right by their desk, and the dog will still be getting exercise,” Susan says.
After creating her own website, Kam went on a search for animal treadmills, but found prices for most models cost well over $1,000—a hefty sum for the then 10-year-old to come up with on her own.
“I sold these glow in the dark wrist bands at school,” Kam says. “I also had a keynote I presented to my 4th, 5th and 6th grade classes to let them know what I was doing.”
Gottleib says her daughter is constantly finding ways to fundraise for her cause, from lemonade stands to a Hawaiian themed Tiki-party event to the mile run/walk she’s organizing this spring. Kam even used part of her profits from raising a sheep in a local 4-H program toward the treadmills.
“I’m really proud of her,” Gottleib says. “Some kids do something like this one time, which is so admirable, but she’s driving this and always planning to do the next thing. She has such a good heart.”
Kam finally found a company with an affordable treadmill that fit the bill. She contacted David Ezra, owner of dogPACER, and told him about her idea. Impressed with Kam’s mission, he offered a $100 discount along with free shipping and handling.
Kam bought the first treadmill and placed it at the Anti-Cruelty Society’s main Chicago location, where she was the first to be recognized by their “Pals for Pets” award program for kids who make a difference for animals.
“Mr. Ezra called back and said they were so inspired at what I was doing that they wanted to give me a free treadmill,” Kam says. “It was such a boost, because now I can do more to help with the extra money.”
Kam placed the donated treadmill at the shelter in Michigan. She says, “It’s indescribable when they bring out the dog, and they’re wagging their tail!”
The shelter in Michigan has been able to almost double the amount of exercise they give to each dog through the use of the treadmill.
An anonymous donor has since presented Kam with a third treadmill, and she is hoping to place it with Orphans of the Storm, a local shelter that houses large-breed dogs. Kam is working on raising funds for a fourth treadmill, and says she has lofty plans for the future of Kinetics K-9’s.
“Each treadmill in my mind is a goal, and in my head it’s like a checklist, which is boosting me to do the next one,” says Kam. “I have a huge, huge, huge goal when I’m older to place a treadmill in a shelter in every state of the United States.
Donations are accepted on Kam’s website to help her reach her goal of a fourth treadmill.