MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Petco Foundation's annual Holiday Wishes grant program is in full swing. And members of the foundation's staff are crisscrossing the country passing out checks ranging from $5,000 to $100,000.

Friday students at Reeths-Puffer Elementary in Muskegon County learned the letters they wrote, and video they sent to the foundation earned a Holiday Wishes grand prize for shelter that the school's therapy dog "Buddy" was adopted from.

"This means that we get to continue to care for animals in need like Buddy, and stories like his are going to continue to happen," said Alexis Ogborn, Executive Director Human Society and Animal Rescue Muskegon County.

The shelter plans to use the $100,000 to improve facilities and expand services.  

"For the Petco Foundation this is the best time of the year," said Lisa Lane, Director of Marketing Development for Petco Foundation. "It's fantastic to hear what they're able to do with those funds, improve their programs, and help even more pets find loving homes."

First grade students at the elementary school wrote letters as part of a persuasive writing exercise and convinced school administration to give them permission to find a therapy dog for the school.

Buddy was located at the Humane Society and Animal Rescue of Muskegon County. He'd twice been surrendered to the shelter after circumstances with previous owners changed.

Teachers, staff and students say Buddy brightens their days. He's credited with calming students and cheering up teachers.

"I like having Buddy here," said student Riley Shafer. "He's nice and he doesn't bite or anything."

"He's helped me before when I didn't feel good," added student Addison Whitaker.

Buddy's story was selected out of 15,000 entries into the Holiday Wishes grant program. 

"We feel like this is his calling," said Ogborn. "We see that kind of potential with every animal that comes into our shelter."

There are more than 100 pets available for adoption at the shelter.

The elementary students received canvas totes with socks and sticker sheets from BOBS from Skechers' charitable collection.

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