Florida high school cross country team helps shelter dogs get adopted by running with them

April 7, 2023

Dogs and high school boys both have lots of energy, but that’s only one of the reasons that a Florida cross country team decided to partner with a local humane society, reports Southern Living.

For the last six years, members of the boys cross country team at George Steinbrenner High School in Lutz have joined forces with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to promote pet adoption while helping resident pups get socialization and exercise.

Each summer and during fall—and winter breaks—the “Boss Cross” boys, as they are affectionately known, get up early to run with the adoptable dogs.

Head Coach Allison Szponar got the idea for the program in 2017, when the mom of a Boss Cross team member came to her with an advertisement looking for Humane Society of Tampa Bay volunteers. She thought that helping out local dogs would be a good way to support the community, and it jived with the team motto: “Gentleman. Scholar. Athlete.” 

“It teaches the guys to work as a team and to care for more than themselves,” Szponar explained to Southern Living.

Glen Hatchell, behavior and enrichment manager at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, told Fox News Digital that the dogs appear “relaxed” after runs with the team.

“This gives the dogs a fun experience outside of the shelter,” he said.

The program has seen incredible success in finding the dogs their forever homes. In fact, more than 100 adoptions have come out of it since 2017. The Boss Cross team is winning too, taking home the state championship in 2019.

“I truly believe that these kids having this responsibility and having to care for others directly impacts our team and our success,” Szponar said.

Research contact: @southernliving