Sesser’s Sixth Grade Plans and Campaigns for the Dog Park | Local News

Zeke Endicott (right) stands with his mother, Amber, and their dog, Penny, at the Sesser City Park location where they hope to develop a dog park. As part of a spring school project, Zeke developed a proposal and submitted it for a grant under the PetSmart Dog Park Grant Program, for which he is now one of 30 finalists.

Byron Hetzler

Sesser is a finalist for a $25,000 grant to build a dog park, thanks to a sixth grade end-of-year project.

Last spring, Zeke Endicott ended the homeschooling year with a major project: developing a proposal to bring a dog park to Miner Memorial Park in his community of Sesser. Now, his dream is Illinois’ only finalist in PetSafe’s national Bark for Your Park grant program, and he’s campaigning for votes.

Endicott wants the park not just for Penny, his own lab-beagle mix, but for other dogs and owners in the area to enjoy.

“Penny needs a dog park,” the shy 12-year-old said.

Her mother, Amber Endicott, said Zeke’s research taught her the benefits of dog parks.

“We interviewed a veterinarian and learned that dogs are happy and healthy when they can socialize with other dogs and are able to release all of their extra energy in a safe, enclosed environment,” a- she declared.

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In pursuit of his goal, Zeke has done his homework, so to speak.

“I met with the mayor and was able to speak with other people who have done it before, like in Carbondale,” he said. “They were very helpful.”

Organizers of a dog park in Carbondale won $25,000 from PetSafe last year. They provided suggestions and advice for the Sesser Park project.

“There’s going to be a side for small dogs and a side for big dogs,” Zeke explained. “They told us it was better to separate them.”


Zeke Endicott shows off his hand-drawn plan for a dog park in Sesser City Park that he came up with as a school project. The project is one of 30 finalists for a PetSmart dog park grant.

Byron Hetzler

His plans are well thought out, right down to the shape of the park.

“When Mayor Ashmore showed us the map of where the park could go, Zeke saw that it was shaped like a heart. We’ve been calling it ‘I Heart Dogs’ park ever since,” said said his mother, adding that he would like to see amenities including an agility course and a fire hydrant-shaped water fountain for the dogs.

Zeke also has other plans. She said he wanted the venue to host an annual “Dog Days” celebration that would provide opportunities for pet adoption from area animal shelters.

Sesser Mayor Jason Ashmore said he was impressed with Zeke and his plans and willingness to bring a dog park to the community.

“One of his ideas for his school project was a community project and he decided to try and get a dog park,” Ashmore said. “I loved his idea and I love that he does all the leg work. It’s just amazing, everything he’s done on it. He’s charted, researched grants and even visited other dog parks. He’s the reason we’re running for this grant right now.

Zeke said the only way for Sesser to receive one of four $25,000 PetSmart grants awarded nationwide this year is for supporters to vote for the project at Votes can be cast daily until August 31 and winners will be announced in early September.