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Abandoned dog inspires local student to start up pet-themed company; portion of profits benefit local Humane Society

Press release from Alachua County Public Schools

About ten years ago, Daniel Dickrell’s father found a litter of puppies abandoned in a cardboard box by the side of the road. One of those puppies, named Kate, has been a member of the family ever since. 

Kate is an affectionate dog of indeterminate breed, with a black coat and white markings. She’s also the inspiration for a company that Daniel has established using skills he learned in Howard Bishop Middle School’s Academy of Technology and Advanced Studies. Fifty percent of the profits from that company, called Stray Styles, goes to the Humane Society to help shelter animals find new homes.

Daniel got the idea for Stray Styles, which offers pet-themed shirts and other merchandise, from Kate’s favorite activity.

“Kate will fetch a ball for hours. It became kind of a joke phrase for us, ‘Ball is life,’” said Daniel. “I turned that into a shirt and we thought that might sell well and that we could help animals by selling it.”

Besides t-shirts, sweat shirts, and tank tops, the ‘Ball is Life’ theme is now featured on several other items offered by Stray Styles, including mugs, canvas bags, even baby clothes. But Stray Styles also sells shirts, masks, mousepads, and other items featuring bold dog- and cat-themed patterns that Daniel designed with Adobe Illustrator, graphics software he learned to use in the Bishop program. 

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Daniel and his mother Pamela credit teachers Christopher Mudra and John Bailey for providing him the tools he needed to bring his ideas to life.

“I couldn’t have done it without learning Illustrator from them,” said Daniel. “They made it more fun to learn the skills.”

 “In a year when a lot of kids are stressed out and unsure of what to do with themselves, Daniel turned to the technical skills from the courses as a creative outlet to form something he could do on his own to help animals,” said Pamela. 

Both Bailey and Mudra agree that Daniel is an outstanding student who always does more than what’s required. They also say it’s satisfying as teachers to see students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world situations. 

“I’m going to use Daniel as an example for my other students,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll say they’re never going to use what they’re learning, but he’s proof that you can put those skills to use immediately.” 

“It’s really fulfilling to see that because it’s the whole point of what we’re doing,” said Mudra. “We want them to use what we’re teaching to do something that they enjoy doing, something they’re passionate about.”

Since starting up Stray Styles in December, Daniel has already made his first $100 donation to the local Humane Society. He’s also filed his first creative design patent for one of his patterns. 

So far his sales have pretty much been limited to friends and family members. But as sales increase, Daniel plans to expand his merchandise catalog. He’s already working on new designs featuring more exotic pets, like lizards. More importantly, he wants to contribute more money to a cause that has such a personal meaning for him and his entire family—including Kate.

Anyone interested in supporting that cause can visit the Stray Styles website at straystyles.com.

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