It’s the middle of summer vacation. For most kids, that means pool parties, summer camps, video games, hanging out with friends, etc. However, for one extraordinary 10-year-old, summer break means more time to rescue animals.
Meet Roman, a passionate animal welfare advocate who got his start in rescuing animals when he was just four-years-old. With the help of his mom, Jen, they’ve rescued 3,700 animals and counting through their non-profit, Project Freedom Ride.
It all started when Roman was visiting a pet store to pick out goodies for his two pups at home. When he arrived, he noticed a large line of crates set up outside the store and wanted to know why there were so many dogs not in loving homes like his.
“We explained to him that they’re trying to find homes because not all the dogs from the shelters end up finding homes,” said Jen.
Jen used this moment as a learning experience for Roman by taking him to the local shelters to learn more about rescuing and how to help.
In their hometown of San Angelo, Texas, there was a major issue of overcrowding with about 100-plus dogs in the shelter. Jen and Roman were so saddened by what they saw that Jen decided to create a Facebook page so they could share videos of the dogs that were up for adoption.
“Prior to Project Freedom Ride, we were just helping raise money for adoption events and we spoke at city council meetings to change regulations. We fought for mandatory spay and neuter laws, which we got, and mandatory microchipping.”
Soon after getting these regulations put into place, Roman’s dad was re-stationed to Washington state, so the family packed their bags and moved to the Pacific Northwest. They quickly noticed the difference in shelter capacity, there was no overcrowding up north.
“We kept talking to the Texas rescues and were like, ‘what’s preventing you from getting your dogs up to the Pacific Northwest?’ The hurdle was funding for transportation.”
One thing Jen and Roman knew they were good at was raising money. They had done that for so many shelters already through their videos and were ready to continue to help from thousands of miles away. They turned their focus to raising money for transports and started moving Texas rescue animals up to Washington through licensed drivers.
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Fast forward five years and they have their own transport van that’s been outfitted with Project Freedom Ride decals. It even features a picture of Roman and his pup Ruth on the back. Project Freedom Ride decided to do everything internally from this point on because they wanted to make sure all the dogs were transported safely and with the proper care.
On top of raising money for animal transports, they also continue to help with other smaller costs like spay and neuter and help provide products for their rescue partners. While the van is located in Texas with a licensed driver, they do their part locally now in Augusta, Georgia.
A typical day for Roman and Jen at the shelter could last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. Roman loves to spend quality time with each animal and make a video for each individual animal to help share their story.
An important part of Roman’s work is that he breaks the stigma of pet adoption, that all animals that come from a shelter have behavioral issues. Whether it’s a small chihuahua or a large pitbull, Roman helps show that these animals are fun-loving dogs that will do great in a family setting.
At just 10-years-old, Roman has a lot to be proud of, but in his eyes, his proudest moment was when he hit 1000 dogs rescued. For his amazing efforts, ASPCA named him “Kid Of The Year” in 2018.
“I thought, well, other people are realizing that I’m making a difference in, I should keep doing this,” said Roman.
He caught the attention of media all over the country and was spotlighted on shows like Ellen, Today Show, ABC World News, and many more. While all the attention was a fun experience, Roman remained focused on his one true goal, saving as many animals as possible.
“Well when I see dogs getting their new home and I see pictures of that way, maybe a couple months later, like going on a boat for the first time or going to a relative’s house or something… It’s really cool, and I just don’t want to stop because all these dogs are now living amazing lives. And I want every dog to feel like this, so why would I stop?”
From the very beginning, Jen was determined to make this work for Roman and wanted to make sure he believed that if he were to set his mind to helping save animals, he could do just that. With his empathetic demeanor and his intelligible articulation, it was only fitting for Roman to take on the unique challenge of animal rescue.
“I’m not one of those kids that sits in a dark room and plays video games all day through their childhood.”
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Of course, Roman is still a kid and does fun activities like Jiu Jitsu and plays a variety of different sports, but he’ll always stand out from the crowd with the success of his philanthropic work.
Roman would like everyone to know that there are a variety of different ways to help animals in need. Whether it be through fostering, donating, volunteering, or just visiting the shelter to play with the animals, there’s always a way to help.
While hectic at times, it’s been a fun journey that Jen and Roman have been on and Project Freedom Ride is looking forward to saving all the animals they can as their story continues.
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