The Rilee Beisler Humane-i-tarian Award is inspired by the heroic actions of 11-year-old Rilee. On May 5, 2021, she tragically lost her life attempting to rescue her two puppies, Dobby and Luna. 

    HSSC's mission is to engage the hearts, hands, and minds of the community to help animals. Rilee Beisler's huge heart for animals is an inspiration and a testament to the strength of the human-animal bond. May we remember and honor the life of this young lady and celebrate other animal-loving young people.

    Children ages 6-17 who live in Sarasota County and exemplify compassion, love, and respect for animals are eligible to be nominated for this award.

    2024 Nominations will be accepted beginning in January 15, 2024. The winner will be awarded at a special ceremony at the Humane Society of Sarasota County.

    2023 Honorees

    Rilee Beisler Humane-i-tarian (ages 6-17)
    Honrees: Ashly Tarro, Lyla McKenney, Ellis Howell, Sofia Bruns
    Winners: Abby Williams, Van Vangor
    Humane Education (teacher or educator)
    Honorees: Katie Scaz, Samantha Gentrup
    Winner: Delvecchio Walls
    To learn more about submitting a nomination, please visit our BE KIND TO ANIMALS MONTH page.

    2023 WINNERS

    Congratulations to Abby Williams and Van Vangor, the winners of the 2023 Rilee Beisler Humane-i-tarian Award! We are honored to recognize animal-loving children in our community. Thank you everyone who made this possible, especially our sponsors SouthState Bank and a donor who wishes to remain anonymous!  Prize sponsors were Sun Outdoors and Sarasota Jungle Gardens.

    2021 WINNER

    Congratulations to Lucy Thomas, the winner of the 2021 Rilee Beisler Humane-i-tarian Award! We are honored to recognize animal-loving children in our community. Thank you everyone who made this possible, especially our partners Sun Outdoors Sarasota!
    Lucy is the 2021 Rilee Beisler Humane-i-tarian Award recipient. Lucy's nomination stood out among a panel of judges from within the organization and our community. She's adopted five shelter pets, is a volunteer for a local animal shelter, and has participated in numerous shelter projects. She is a Girl Scout and for her Girl Scout Gold Award, she organized a senior pet adoption event to bring public awareness to the benefits of adopting senior pets. She volunteers at a local vet's office assisting in procedures and medical exams for a wide range of animals. She has plans for creating a website to better match pet adopters with local shelter pets in their area. Lucy is also saving her Girl Scout money to fund her trip to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (where she sponsored care for a bald eagle) so she can learn how to better help wildlife. Congratulations, Lucy! 

    Rilee Michelle Beisler

    AUGUST 21, 2009 – MAY 5, 2021

    Rilee was a sixth grader at McIntosh Middle School. She tragically lost her life in an attempt to rescue her two 7-month-old puppies, Luna and Dobby, from a fire.



    "In this day and age because of the COVID monster, our attentions have gravitated to smaller more withdrawn personal contacts, but we sometimes forget other things around us, like our animals. They give us joy and inner peace we also take for granted.

    For my generation (many years ago) as a child my dog was one of the most important parts of my life. Rilee was the same way. She lived with us for many years before moving over to her mother's trailer at Sun n Fun. The puppies she cared for were two Pitbull pups her mother’s friend left behind. Rilee started training them to walk on a leash, to sit, and to become “potty trained”. She loved them both and they became an important part of her life. They gave Rilee joy, and she repaid that affection with caring and love. She never gave a second thought to entering a burning building to save them, even if she should have known better. She didn’t understand the dynamics of a confined-but-powerful fire, and it cost her life. Her only thought was to rescue those two pups, and her bravery set terrible circumstances into motion. It’s that bravery and awareness of the value of two simple dogs that we wish to celebrate and remember, annually.

    For kids her age, pets are a sanctuary in today's confused and uncertain times. We sincerely hope to contribute, in Rilee’s memory, a sense of responsibility and caring among kids her age, and others, of course, that will guide them toward their adult years to be passed down for generations to come." 

    —Pete Beisler