Tifton girl earns Jefferson Award for dedication to animals
FOX 31 continues to honor our local heroes with the Jefferson Awards.
The Jefferson Award is the nation's longest standing and most prestigious organization dedicated to celebrating public service.
Kylei Cutts of Tifton is June's recipient and, at 12 years old, FOX 31's youngest ever winner.
Dogs might be man’s best friend, but the bond between Kylei and her dog, Kaitlyn, is even stronger than that.
“She is my sister because I don’t have any siblings,” Kylei said. “She’s the best sister ever, even though she gets me up at 3 o’clock in the morning.”
It’s that dedication to Kaitlyn, who the Cutts family rescued from the Tifton-Tift County Animal Shelter eight years ago, that led Kylei to help other pets at the shelter.
“She got sick, and that really hurt me, and I was like, ‘Well these dogs can get sick any time, and they don’t really have tons of money to spend,’ so I was like, ‘OK, maybe if I can raise a few dollars or something,’” she said.
But Kylei has raised more than a few dollars through her “Choose Kindness” campaign. When FOX 31 first spoke with Kylei back in June, she had raised a respectable $300.
Less than two months later, that amount has grown sizably.
“Right now, we’re over $2,000, and our grand total is $2,174,” she said.
She’s gotten there by passing out bracelets and business cards, and people can donate in exchange.
Both items have the “Choose Kindness” message on them, which she said applies to two-legged and four-legged friends.
“It’s been important to me that people are kind to each other and that they care about each other, and I just created ‘Choose Kindness’ because it was a reminder for people to choose kindness every day,” Kylei said.
She’s sent her message throughout the community through her Facebook page and word of mouth, and she even spoke to kids at a Tiftarea YMCA camp recently, with Kaitlyn alongside her to help.
But don’t think all the support for Kylei is just coming from her family and friends.
“It’s even some people that I don’t even know, so it’s just cool that they hear about it and they know about it,” she said.
Kylei doesn’t plan on slowing down, either, even with her seventh grade year beginning next week.
“My goal was $1,000 in December. I’ve already hit that, so I was like, OK, let’s make a new goal, $2,000. Already hit it, so my new goal’s $3,000,” she said.
She encourages other kids to put their passions to good use, too.
“Be confident. Don’t let other people let you down. Just tell yourself that you can do it, and you can,” she said. “You really can!”
While her “sister,” Kaitlyn, can always be counted on to bring a smile to Kylei’s face, she gets just as big a grin knowing that other people care about these animals as much as she does.
“It makes me feel very good just because I know that people love me, and they care about animals, and just, it makes me feel so good that people have the kindness to donate,” she said.