WATCH: Siobhan Magnus, CEO Fred O’Regan and others at the 2012 IFAW Animal Action Awards

CEO Fred O’Regan, Siobhan Magnus and other IFAW staff discuss the 2012 Animal Action Awards.

There are three things I like best about my job: sharing my passion for animal welfare and conservation with young people, spending time with individuals who work on the ground protecting animals, and meeting our supporters, who make everything we do to save animals possible.

Last week, I was lucky enough to experience all of my favourite things at one incredible event to honor the United States winners of the 2012 IFAW Animal Action Awards, which are part of our international Animal Action Education program, the largest and longest-running animal welfare initiative of its kind in the world.

It was an evening to celebrate the passion, dedication and achievements of some of the often unsung animal heroes whose activities are making a positive difference for animals:

  • Environmental journalist John Platt turned his concern about the plight of endangered species into influential and inspiring career as a writer for Scientific American. Platt’s Extinction Countdown blog is the world's first (and longest-running) news source devoted entirely to endangered species. Through more than 1300 articles, Platt raises awareness about animal welfare and conservation issues every day among thousands of national and international readers. His thoughtful articles explore not just why animal populations are diminishing, but also what is being done to protect them.
  • Health teacher Paula McMahon brought her passion for animals to the students at Chatham High School, founding an after-school Animal Welfare Club that has become a model for youth advocacy and volunteerism that could extend to schools throughout the region and beyond. The group, which includes 15 students aged 14-18, have taken over operation of the town’s temporary animal shelter in conjunction with the Chatham Animal Control Officer. They do everything from raising the funds for animal care and any needed medical treatment, to hand’s-on work to rehab the shelter building and actual animal rescue and care.
  • When 18-year-old Stephanie Leontiev learned that tigers are on the brink of extinction, she didn’t just feel sad and move on. Instead, she founded the Youth for Conservation Forum at National Cathedral High School in Washington, D.C. to mobilize young people in raising awareness about the plight of wild tigers and other endangered species. The group - which has expanded to several other high schools and is recognized as the official youth partner of the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative - will be holding their second March for Tigers at the National Zoo on June 2 – with Stephanie leading the way.
  • Former congressman Jay Inslee has been one of the strongest champions for wildlife and the environment in Congress over the past few decades. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1992 until this year, working on numerous efforts promoting species protection including introducing bills to protect big cats, crack down on puppy mills, protect great apes and increase penalties for animal fighting. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make the awards ceremony but he had a pretty good excuse – he’s out west in his home state of Washington running for Governor.

We were also honored to have a special guest, American Idol finalist Siobhan Magnus, to help present the awards – and it really made the day for the awardees, especially the teens. Siobhan, who sprang to national fame in 2010 with a voice that captures the heart and soul of rock & roll, rhythm & blues and everything in between, is passionate about advocating for animals and our shared environment.

Take a minute to watch this brief highlight video of the 2012 Animal Action Week Award ceremony above.

- F.O.

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