How one student turned his love for dogs into a meaningful ongoing service project—all for free.
table of brightly colored tug toys
Credit: Courtesy of Ry's Pup Tugs

Fifth-grader Ryan Marusa of State College, Pa., has a soft spot for dogs. In fact, he really loves them. So when a recent school project came his way, he knew exactly what he wanted to do: make handcrafted dog toys for puppies everywhere with the help of his family.

"Overall, I love pets. I'm not sure what it is about them—they're just so fun to have around. They're great companions," says Ryan, the proud owner of two pugs and a cat.

Ryan's idea was to craft braided tug toys made from strips of fleece fabric—and give them to as many dogs as he could. Ryan's mom Chrissy Marusa was on board from the get-go, using her personal Facebook page to get the word out about her son's "passion project" for school. One post turned into nearly 100 toy requests from local dog owners in central Pennsylvania, which was only the beginning of the operation.

No doubt about it—Ryan has his eyes on the prize, wanting to give a dog toy to every dog in the world. That's no small feat, but he's slowly but surely expanding operations beyond his hometown, thanks to his public Facebook page: Ry's Pup Tugs. How awesome! Ryan has also donated his made-with-love toys to an animal shelter in his area, Centre County PAWS.

"We've donated toys to 16 states and given over 170 toys, and in donations … we've [raised] over $600," Ryan says. 

So, what goes into making one of the now-famous Pup Tugs? All it takes is some fleece and an eagerness from family members to help out. Ryan's grandma and his cousins have recently joined the team in order to keep up with production requests, which are continuously mounting, making Ryan the head man in charge. After the toys are made, Ryan's dad Mike Marusa helps ship them off or helps Ryan deliver them in person safely. It's a passion project for the whole family!

And get this: All Ryan asks for in return for his hard work is a photo of your dog enjoying her new toy. Take a look: 

If the Ry's Pup Tugs project happens to pull at your heartstrings, you can help him out in a few different ways. For those that live in central Pennsylvania and have extra fleece lying around, you can donate fleece directly to their family! Send a private message to their Facebook page to coordinate a pickup time.

Not a Pennsylvania resident? No problem. If you're interested in donating, Ry's Pup Tugs encourages you to make a donation to your local animal shelter. But if you'd like to directly help Ryan, you can donate via Venmo. These donations currently go toward offsetting shipping costs, and buying materials, but once the family hits the $1,000 mark, they'd love to help cover adoption costs at PAWS.

"We never intended on people giving us money, but the donations have been rolling in," Marusa says. 

Plus, if you or a household member are looking to get in on the Pup Tug production, keep an eye out on the Facebook page for news about potential starter kits.

Kudos to Ryan for spreading good cheer!