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THOUSAND OAKS | VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS

Teen Honored as a Top Youth Volunteer

February 14, 1996|KELLY DAVID

A Thousand Oaks teenager with a knack for nurturing injured animals back to health was one of two California students named today as one of the state's top youth volunteers by Prudential Insurance Co. of America.

Molly Vandewater, a sophomore at La Reina High School in Thousand Oaks, will receive a silver medallion and a $1,000 reward for her work at Wildlife Care of Ventura County, a nonprofit animal-rescue service that serves 1,500 animals a year. She created the program at age 13.

In May, she and 104 other honorees--one middle school and one high school student from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico--will attend an awards ceremony in Washington. At the ceremony, a national committee including Sens. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.) will name the nation's top 10 Prudential Spirit of Community youth volunteers for 1996.

Molly, 15, takes injured or orphaned animals into her home--equipped with 32 bird cages, three incubators, 18 cages for other animals and three outdoor aviaries--and cares for them until they can be released back into the wild. Wildlife Care is funded entirely by private donations.

Although a handful of volunteers and her parents help care for the animals while she is at school, Molly wakes at 5 a.m. to do her homework and care for the animals before going to school.

"It's my job because I am the one who started it," she said. "During baby bird season, I can be up until 11 doing the night feeding."

Molly discovered her talent for curing injured animals three years ago when she nursed 4-day-old rabbits that her dog had dug up in her backyard in Arizona. After raising the rabbits until they were old enough to be released, she was asked to volunteer at an animal rehabilitation center in Arizona.

After moving to Ventura County and finding no comparable service, she decided to start her own.

Molly says she is uncertain over how she will spend her cash award. "I am debating on either spending it on the animals or saving for college," she said.

The awards program was started this year by Prudential as a way of encouraging young people to volunteer for community service projects.

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