Ashburn youth unleashes Knot Perfect dog toys to help feed the hungry
Austin Baron stood in the rain for hours, his colorful, homemade dog toys lying on the table in front of him. But few people stopped to see what he was selling. When the seventh grader left the outdoor event, many of his toys were unsold. Despite this disappointing reception, Baron did not give up on his new project because he did what he was passionate about: raising money for starving people around the world. Three years later he is grateful that he persevered.
A student at St. Theresa School in Ashburn, Baron loved packing meals for the hungry with the Cross Catholic Outreach program at school, but he wanted to do more for a world struggling with hunger pains.
In 2018 he took his outreach experience one step further. Combining his love for dogs with his passion for helping others, Baron created Knot Perfect, a project that involves making and selling dog toys.
Baron taught himself to make the toys from a YouTube video. The foot-length toys are made by repeatedly tying square knots on a rope, leaving fringes at the ends. “I named (my project) Knot Perfect because the world is not a perfect place and people go to bed hungry at night,” said Baron. “And the toys I make are not perfect.”
Knot Perfect donates 100 percent of the proceeds to Youth vs. Hunger, a Cross Catholic Outreach program at St. Theresa’s School.
“I really enjoy packing meals through youth vs. hunger,” said Baron. “I find it empowering that the same meals I wrap are being used for the hungry around the world. So I decided to bring 100 percent of the donations there. “
Despite a slow start, Knot Perfect has had tremendous success over the years. Now a student at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Baron has sold more than 500 toys, raised over $ 5,000, and provided over 20,000 meals to feed the hungry.
“All my life I have aspired to do things to help other people because other people are really in need and we are really blessed to have the things we have,” said Baron. “That is why we are on earth to help other people.”
“The whole experience was a journey of faith,” said Baron’s mother Laurie, encouraging him. “The Holy Spirit created an amazing supportive group of people and communities just for Austin.”
The idea for Knot Perfect came from Baron’s love for animals, especially the two dogs in his family, Crash and Shamrock. The logo for Baron’s shop, designed by his older brother Hayden, features the family’s dogs. “It was really nice to have our dogs involved in the deal,” said Baron.
Baron is asking for a minimum donation of $ 10 for each toy that can deliver 40 meals. The toys are sold at the Catoctin Veterinary Clinic in Leesburg and several restaurants in Leesburg and Purcellville. He also sells them at fairs and festivals. Baron said he was overwhelmed by the generosity of the donors.
“It was really great to see people come together to donate,” he said. “I’ve had some really good experiences at the festivals.”
Laurie said people are motivated to donate when they see Baron’s hard work. “All of these donations come from people of different faiths, backgrounds, and randomly on Austin’s path,” she said. “It really helps to have Austin around when they see someone his age.”
Baron’s commitment to the service was recognized when he received the National Catholic Education Association’s 2020 Youth Virtues, Valor, and Vision Award, one of only 10 students nationwide to receive it.
It was an unexpected honor to receive the award, said Baron. “It encourages me to go ahead and help as many people as possible.”