KALEIGH HANSON

Kaleigh Hanson began volunteering at Possumwood Acres when she was 6 years old and has spent many of her Friday nights there ever since. (Contributed photo)

HUBERT — Kaleigh Hanson put up some impressive numbers in her Croatan running career, but they may not be as impressive as those she registered at Possumwood Acres.

The seven-time track state champion dedicated approximately 850 volunteer hours at the wildlife sanctuary in Hubert over the past 12 years.

“I started volunteering at Possumwood the summer after kindergarten because I loved animals and wanted to become a veterinarian at that time,” she said. “My family and I went out almost every Friday night from then on, and we still do.”

Hanson said she wasn’t able to volunteer as much this past year due to a busy senior year that included running, school and working at Frank’s Pizza.

She was impressive on the track, winning a silver medal at the 1A/2A indoor state championships with a 3-minute, 6.34-second time in the 1,000 meters.

At the 2A outdoor state championships, she earned a bronze medal as a member of the 3,200-meter relay team, along with Reese Hogan, Courtney Drumm and Maleia Smith. Their time was 10:12.50. The medal brought Hanson’s career state medal count to a whopping 20.

She was part of three conference championships (cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field), two regional championships (cross country, outdoor track and field) and teams that finished third in the state (indoor track and field) and fifth in the state (cross country).

When she did make it to the wildlife sanctuary, she cleaned cages, fed animals, administered medication and organized.

“I love that I have been able to have this experience for all these years,” she said.

Hanson began volunteering in 2007 when she was just 6 years old.

She stood side-by-side with her mother Kim Hanson and aunt Colleen Whillden.

The three became staples at Possumwood Acres nearly every Friday night, caring for animals and educating those being rehabilitated for release. The three of them combined to donate almost 3,000 hours of their time, becoming invaluable contributors to the nonprofit organization that depends heavily on dedicated volunteers.

“I have had the opportunity to see and work with such a wide variety of wildlife,” Hanson said. “I will miss my Friday nights at Possumwood when I go to college, but I will still try and stop in and volunteer when I come home on breaks.”

Hanson graduated from Croatan in May with a 4.25 GPA and will now head to UNC-Charlotte where she will run the 800 meters for the track and field team and major in nursing.

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