Nikiski teen's reindeer draws money for charity

Associated PressDecember 11, 2012 

Reindeer Fundraiser

In this Dec. 1, 2012, photo, Evelyn MacLellan, center, and her nephew Jude, right, keep an eye on Crash the reindeer during a photo opportunity with the animal in Soldotna, Alaska. Jenna Hansen, center, has been raising Crash as a 4H project and is now using him to raise funds for charitable organizations. (AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, M. Scott Moon) MAGS OUT; NO SALES

M. SCOTT MOON — AP

Scene of the Crash has a permanent home in Nikiski, and the reindeer is returning the generosity. Crash is helping to raise money for local organizations and issues.

The reindeer's owner, Jenna Hansen, and other members of 4-H have organized three events with Crash.

"At our meeting, we were thinking of ways to give back to the community, and we thought why not use Crash," Hansen said. "People love reindeer, especially during the holidays."

The fundraising efforts of Hansen and her peers reflect the mission of 4-H, which includes learning through experience and helping the community. Hansen teaches local kids about reindeer during visits with Crash. Those educational events and the recent fundraising efforts are possible due to proper training on Hansen's part.

Hansen bought Crash in early February. The Nikiski High School sophomore is experienced in raising animals, as she's been involved in 4-H since elementary school.

She decided to raise a reindeer after seeing domesticated caribou at the Alaska State Fair. She couldn't be happier with her decision, she said.

"I'm very happy," Hansen said. "I've been doing educational projects with (Crash) . and the kids are always very thrilled to meet a reindeer."

She has taught students at elementary and high schools, as well as kids at the Kenai Boys and Girls Club lessons about the animal. She generally teaches one to five lessons. Much of the information she gets from a book written by University of Alaska Fairbanks research professional George Aguiar, who works for the university's Reindeer Research Program.

Hansen trained Crash throughout the year, but the reindeer was acclimated to people as early as August. Initial training consisted of desensitizing the reindeer to people and to things like unnatural noises. Having her friends over a lot, also members of 4-H, helped Crash get used to people.

"He does get nervous sometimes," she said. "But as long as I walk him a little bit, he's fine."

Crash lives in an open-air pen on the Hansen's property. He doesn't need a closed shelter; the reindeer actually prefers cold weather.

Hansen decided against selling Crash in a 4-H Junior Market Livestock project. Her initial inclination was to keep the reindeer as an educational tool. Fundraising only recently became part of caring for Crash.

For Crash's initial foray into philanthropy, he stood placidly while Kenai Peninsula residents snapped photos with him. The event occurred at the Soldotna Sports Center. Members of 4-H used the obtained funds to pay for horse clinicians to come to the Peninsula.

Crash's second outing, another photo opportunity for residents, occurred at C & M Muffler in Soldotna on Saturday. This event raised funds for the area's homeless youth.

The members of 4-H decided as a group to hold the event, Hansen said.

"It's winter, and it's always cold," she said. "Some people don't even have a blanket or a coat. We should help them if we can."

The group will host a third event Dec. 15 at the Rotary Club of Soldotna. The club has supported 4-H for years. The group's members will be "ringing the bell" to solicit donations for Soldotna Rotary.

The details are not yet worked out, but Crash will be present. Pictures with Crash haven't been discussed, Hansen said.

She bought a second reindeer in November, which she plans to sell at auction. There's been an increased interest in reindeer for auction, she said. She'll care for Ranger, her newest purchase, until August.

Projects encouraged by 4-H have had a great impact on Hansen's life, she said.

 

 

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