As I boarded the plane in Memphis late Friday night, a million images ran through my mind:
- Children in flood displacement shelters smiling while munching on chili dogs
- Puppies, separated from their mother by the flood, waiting for homes at the local shelter
- A young, beautiful boy singing his heart out at the children’s hospital
I went to Memphis with Disney TV star Orlando Brown, our American Humane Association National Ambassador, on a Hope Tour to aid flood recovery in Memphis.
The Memphis Hope Tour was a celebration of the children and the animals of Memphis, a proud city with a rich history deeply rooted in its geography on the Mississippi River.
No one is ever ready for a natural disaster, but when the waters of that big river rose, so did the people of Memphis. They stood up and reached out to provide for their neighbors and their animals.
Compassion, caring and hope — isn’t this what America is all about?
It’s what American Humane Association is all about. On May 3, our Red Star Animal Emergency Services™ team deployed to Memphis and stayed there for weeks, rescuing and sheltering hundreds of desperate animal victims until they could be reunited with their families.
Now, the floodwaters are receding, but our work is just beginning. Children and animals suffer from stress in times of crisis, and we’re determined to help them through it.
During our trip, Orlando and I saw a 5-week-old baby girl at a church shelter — the youngest child to lose her home to the Memphis floods — who has now spent over half of her life in a displacement shelter. We met a boy who hadn’t smiled since the floods had arrived. Before we left, I heard him laughing with Orlando.
Along with our hope for the future, we brought a list of 10 tips to keep children and animals safe after a disaster. We visited Shelby County Emergency Management and the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County to express our gratitude and to deliver additional financial support.
At American Humane Association, we stand ready to help Memphis and other disaster-affected communities — every day, everywhere.
“Walking in Memphis” wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, which was spared flood damage and is open for visits. It was fun to explore the King’s legendary lifestyle, but also to learn about his commitment to children and animals. In fact, an entire wall displays Elvis’ charitable contributions, many to animal and children’s organizations.
SiriusXM’s Elvis Radio welcomed Orlando for an on-air interview, in which he shared his personal passion for protecting children and animals, and for building a humane and compassionate America.
As the plane landed in my hometown, I was truly grateful to be coming home to my children and my animals. This weekend, I’ll tell them the stories of the kids in the flood shelters and share the photos of the Red Star Rescue Rig and the adorable puppies rescued and waiting for adoption.
My children will ask, “Why didn’t you bring a puppy home?” And I’ll respond, “The puppies will all find loving homes in Memphis, a city where compassion knows no boundaries.”