Youngker’s Hands 4 Paws raises money for Buckeye K-9 Police

Officer Dave Smith, front right, shows off a check Hands 4 Paws awarded the department to pay for a ballistic vest for K-9 Cliff.

Hands 4 Paws, a club at Youngker High School, recently donated $3,200 to the Buckeye Police Department’s K-9 unit in order to pay for a ballistic vest for one of its dogs, Cliff.

Hands 4 Paws is currently in its first year of being an established organization on Youngker’s campus. And between all the community service, the idea to raise money for the K-9 unit’s vest started with a simple conversation between Hands 4 Paws advisor Marie Buquicchio and a police officer.

“I was just talking to an officer one day and the conversation came up in passing that Cliff needed a new vest, and I said ‘We can help you with that,’” Buquicchio said.

Buckeye police officer Dave Smith is Cliff’s partner, and he expressed the importance of a ballistic vest for K-9 units.

“(The ballistic vest) is a huge deal when it comes to critical incidents with guns and knives,” Smith said. “It gives us a level of protection that (Cliff) normally doesn’t have.”

Throughout the year, Hands 4 Paws has been a diligent force throughout the Maricopa County community by volunteering and fundraising for Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC), Buckeye Animal Rescue and Kennel (BARK) and Living Water Ranch Rescue.

Some activities included cleaning kennels, walking dogs and hosting special projects and fundraisers during holidays. The organization also hosted fundraisers at Main Event, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Whataburger, Dunkin Donuts, Peter Piper Pizza and Pizza Hut.

But Hands 4 Paws didn’t stop there.

The club also hosted a gift basket drawing, a craft fair and a school-wide loose coin collection throughout Youngker High School.

“Our mission is to raise awareness for the needs of animals, especially spaying (and) neutering.” Buquicchio said. “We try to do community outreach and get involved, raise money and take care of the dogs.”

Hands 4 Paws has raised approximately $8,000 in its first year as a club, but according to Buquicchio, the future of Hands 4 Paws is filled with even more ambitious tasks and plans to take action to the Legislature.

“We want to try to get some legislation passed to get it illegal to drive in the back of pickup beds and have puppy mills — they’re on my hit list,” Buquicchio said. “We’re definitely (going to) continue to raise money, continue to reach out to the community and continue to help out different rescues and shelters.”

As Cliff continues to patrol the Buckeye area, Smith said he feels more at ease knowing his partner is safer.

“They could have given this gift to anybody they wanted to, but they chose to give it to us — I’m truly grateful,” he said.