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Ashburn youth unleashes Knot Perfect dog toys to help feed the hungry

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Austin Baron stood in the rain for hours, his colorful homemade dog toys arrayed 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 was doing what he felt passionate about: raising money for hungry people around the world. Three years later, he’s grateful that he persevered.

As a student at St. Theresa School in Ashburn, Baron enjoyed 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. 

So in 2018, he took his outreach experience a step further. Combining his love for dogs with his passion for helping others, Baron began Knot Perfect, a project that involves making and selling dog toys.

Baron taught himself to make the toys from a YouTube video. The foot-long toys are made by repeatedly tying square knots on a rope, leaving fringe on the ends. “I named (my project) Knot Perfect because the world is not a perfect place and people go to bed hungry at night,” Baron said. “And the toys that I make aren’t perfect.”

Knot Perfect gives 100 percent of proceeds to Youth vs. Hunger, a Cross Catholic Outreach program at St. Theresa’s school.

“I really enjoy packing meals through Youth vs. Hunger,” Baron said. “I find it empowering that the same meals I’m packing go to feed the hungry around the world. So I decided to have 100 percent of the donations go there.”

Despite a slow beginning, Knot Perfect has met with enormous success over the years. Now a sophomore at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Baron has sold more than 500 toys, raising over $5,000 and providing over 20,000 meals to feed the hungry.

“All my life I’ve aspired to do things to help other people because other people are really in need and we’re really blessed to have the things that we have,” Baron said. “That’s why we’re on the earth, to help other people.”

“The whole experience was a walk of faith,” said Baron’s mother, Laurie, who encouraged him along the way. “The Holy Spirit has just provided for Austin an amazing supportive group of people and community.”

The idea for Knot Perfect grew from Baron’s love for animals, especially his family’s two dogs, Crash and Shamrock. The logo for Baron’s business, which his older brother Hayden designed, features the family’s dogs. “It was really nice to include our dogs in the business,” Baron said.

Baron asks a $10 minimum donation for each toy, which can provide 40 meals. The toys are sold at Catoctin Veterinary Clinic in Leesburg and at several restaurants in Leesburg and Purcellville. He also sells them at fairs and festivals. Baron said he has been overwhelmed by the generosity of those who have donated.

“It’s really been awesome to see the community of people coming 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 these donations are coming from people that are of all different faiths, of all different backgrounds and just happen to be in Austin’s path,” she said. “It really helps having Austin there for them to see someone his age doing this.”

Baron’s dedication to service was recognized when he received the 2020 National Catholic Educational Association Youth Virtues, Valor and Vision Award, one of only 10 students nationwide to receive it.

It was an unexpected honor to receive the award, Baron said. “It gives me more encouragement to keep going forward and to help as many people as possible.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021