A small yet confident voice comes on over the phone. “Hi!” it says in response to my “Hello!”. The voice is that of Roman McConn. Roman, who enthusiastically said he will be turning eight years old on June 28th (and entering third grade in the fall), has done more in his short amount of time on this planet than most adults do in their lifetimes.
McConn, along with his mother Jen, started Project Freedom Ride in 2016. They are not a rescue or transport company. Instead, Jennifer describes the organization as a “community,” according to their Facebook page. They partner with Texas rescues by pulling dogs out of high-kill shelters and taking in strays and other unwanted dogs too. In the meantime, they look for adopters or receiving partners in the Pacific Northwest to take the dogs in.
Family dog Luna (who was adopted from a Texas high-kill shelter) inspired Jen and Roman. “Roman wanted to help, so I kind of had to!” Jen said of Roman’s wishes. “Rescue can be a really ugly world and really emotional, so I was hesitant about getting involved.”
Roman insisted and Jen realized she was much older than her son and needed to get involved. “We’re all in now!” Jen said.
Jen’s husband is in the military so the family moves often (they are currently in Georgia) but still manages to keep their promise, saving nearly 1,500 dogs and giving them new homes.
“We [Mom and I] go to shelters every Saturday and make videos for a dog or two to try and get them adopted,” Roman said. “We do the ones that have been at the shelter the longest—we make videos, play afterwards for a bit then take them back to the kennels.”
Roman is always the one on camera, since “mom doesn’t like to be on camera,” he said.
Then there are the transports, Roman mentioned. Project Freedom Ride takes care of those, transporting dogs that have been there the longest to go up north where there are more adopters but less dogs.
Naturally, getting to meet the dogs is Roman’s favorite part of making the videos. “The dogs don’t deserve a home in a shelter at all,” he said. “They deserve to be in a home where they have a way better life than they ever could have in a shelter.”
What Roman is doing is not all fun. At times he’s felt sad when dogs he’s really loved have had to go on a transport where they end up getting adopted.
However, for having just turned eight years old, Roman is quite wise beyond his years. “It’s hard to let them go, but you just have to do it anyway,” he said. “It’s for the best.”
Roman’s best advice for kids who want to make a difference like him is to “get up and start helping.”
“However it starts, just start helping,” he said.
As for the future, Roman hopes to be an inventor when he’s older. “I have some pretty cool ideas that would save me some time so I could work on inventions and still help dogs,” he said.
For his birthday in a few days, all Roman would like is for dogs to be adopted from their animal shelters and “NEVER brought back.”
You can catch Roman on Dodo Heroes on Animal Planet Sat. June 22nd at 9 p.m.