Hilary Swank’s Charity Opens Hearts While Saving Dogs

Hilaroo sends abandoned dogs and undeserved youth on a journey of rescue, rehabilitation and responsibility training

By: The Get Leashed GIVING Team

Hilary Swank’s life may be filled with more glitz and glamour than the average dog owner’s, but when she’s at home with her own dog (and foster dogs, for that matter) she’s more like the rest of us than you might think. She knows firsthand the unconditional love, compassion and trust that our furry-friends bring us on a daily basis – and just how much they can help us grow to be better people as a result of simply being in our lives. That’s why, when Swank’s beloved dog, Karoo passed on a few years ago, she vowed to pay some of that same love forward to those who need it most.

Photo credit: Hilaroo

Hilaroo, (a word derived from the Swank’s first name combined with her late dog’s name) is a charity dedicated to bringing together the love of dogs who have been abandoned by their owners, with children who are at risk of falling through the cracks of the system. Their mission is simple – help both the kids and animals heal through Rescue, Rehabilitation and Responsibility Training.


The act of teaching a dog to “sit, stay and come” might have a bigger impact on a child’s life than we could have ever imagined. As pet owners, we can recall that the first time our dog communicated with us by obeying a command, our hearts filled with joy. Now, imagine being a child who has spent much of their life alone and afraid of world around them, communicating with this little animal, and having that animal begin to respond with trust and love. That’s where the magic of Hilaroo happens. That’s where healing begins.

Photo credit: Hilaroo

Each year Hilaroo creates a series of week long day camps where children who may come from group homes in the Los Angeles area, as well as foster children, and adopted children, are paired with dogs (this year they come from Daphneyland Dog Rescue) and an adult buddy who will guide them through the experience.  Together, their aim is to help the dogs become “adoption ready” and through the process, provide the youth with essential life skills and trust reinforcement exercises that many of them might not otherwise receive. The organization FosterAll is working closely with Hilaroo, and provide long term support to foster and adopted families.

Photo credit: Hilaroo

Trust is a major theme that is reinforced throughout the camp. Since many of the children have been forced to take care of themselves, building trust with other people, much less adults, is a real issue for them. That’s where the dogs come into play.

“The biggest part of it is just for these kids to see these dogs, who have been kicked to the curb, like they feel that they have. They have an instant connection. It’s a bond that is so beautiful. A lot of these youth have fallen on broken promises time and time again and they don’t trust people anymore. But when they see a dog and this dog has this certain way of loving and touching your heart in a way that some people can’t, it’s a really healing experience.” says Swank.

Photo credit: Hilaroo

Hilaroo is a 100% Get Leashed approved charity. To donate or volunteer please visit thehilaroofoundation.com and click the orange “donate” button in the top corner.