Emma Marion of Clarks Summit may only be in the eighth grade but she’s already making a name for herself as an animal rights advocate.

Marion recently won the “Disney Friends for Change” grant contest and will use the funds to sponsor an event at Hillside Park, located at the intersection of Grove Street and Winola Road in South Abington Twp., on Saturday, May 3, from 1-3 p.m. Marion’s event is designed to raise awareness about animal care and safety and will feature live entertainment, games, face painting and refreshments. All proceeds from the event will directly benefit the Griffin Pond Animal Shelter.

Disney, in conjunction with Youth Service America, awards the grants annually to students who wish to make a positive contribution to their communities. This year, the program awarded grants ranging from $500 to $1,000 to 150 youth-led projects in both the United States and in Latin America. For Marion, this was the second time she applied for the grant, having lost out on the opportunity last year.

“I knew that this was the perfect opportunity to really impact the lives of animals and their owners,” she said. “When I didn’t get the grant, I reapplied this year because I still really wanted to do the project but this time I was more prepared.”

Part of Marion’s additional preparation included the use of persuasive writing techniques she learned at Abington Heights Middle School as well as increased attention to sentence structure and the use of various statistics regarding animal care and safety.

The event will also feature an educational presentation geared towards children on pet safety and care by humane officer Sandy Scala. Marion said that the presentation was important because children are the future of pet owners and that they needed to learn early on proper ways of caring for animals.

“I really love animals because they are truly the best friend to mankind,” Marion said. “They don’t judge you on how much money you have, how pretty or handsome you are or where you live. As long as you treat them with kindness, their love is unconditional. That’s what makes them such fun companions and they can provide memories that will last a lifetime.”

Griffin Pond Animal Shelter representative Jess Farrell explained Marion’s initiative touched shelter staff because it was something she thought of on her own without any input from others.

“What really impressed me about this young community activist is now just how young she is, but how she pursued this grant on her own accord,” Farrell said. “Emma’s community project is not a class assignment or a required service hour completion project. Most days, those of us who work at the shelter have to deal with some very horrible circumstances, such as animal abuse cases and dealing with animals who are abandoned, all of this weighs heavily on our spirits. Emma is a breath of fresh air and her efforts are simply remarkable.”

Marion, who plans to one day become a veterinarian, has no plans of stopping her animal advocacy work, thanks to some inspiration from a four-legged friend.

“I have a dog, a Doberman pinscher named Maverick,” she said. “Dobermans have a really bad rap but he is the sweetest, most well-behaved dog ever and he’s a bit of a baby. Someday, if I get the chance, I want to address the issue of the bad rap that the so-called ‘bully breeds’ like Dobermans, pit bulls and Rotweilers get.”

“As long as you are willing to work for it, you can do almost anything,” Marion continued. “Age is only a number; it does not and should not limit what you can accomplish. When people say you can’t do something, you should take it as a challenge to do just that. Prove them wrong and, by doing so, you can possibly inspire them to great things themselves.”