When Elon senior Maria Torres Monteverde completed her first triathlon, she said she crossed the finish line overwhelmed with pride — a feeling motivating her to not only compete again, but also raise money for a cause close to her heart. 

“It was great to do, but I want to do something bigger than that,” Torres Monteverde said. “I love Burlington Animal Services so much. I know there are so many other shelters that need help as well, but I think Burlington just stands out.”

Torres Monteverde will fundraise and spread awareness for Burlington Animal Services while participating in the White Lake Fall International & Sprint in White Lake, North Carolina, Sept. 11. Torres Monteverde will swim 750 meters, bike 14 miles and run a 5K race. 

Torres Monteverde, an international student from Spain, said her passion for the pet adoption and research center arose early in her sophomore year — a time she spent searching for community outside of campus as COVID-19 case numbers spiked at Elon. 

“I remember telling my boyfriend, ‘I think I need an emotional support animal,’” Torres Monteverde said. “Somebody that’s unbiased, somebody that I can go to, and cry and cuddle.” 

She said while a dog seemed like too much work to take care of as a college student, she wanted to try a cat. Research led her to Burlington Animal Services, an experience she is grateful for. 

“I started getting more into volunteering with them when I heard the amount of work that they need and the amount of volunteers,” Torres Monteverde said. “They get animals in every day, whether it’s kitties, stray cats, feral cats — they find puppies behind Walmart, which is devastating. But thankfully, a lot of people end up adopting and fostering. I started going there. There’s so many animals here in cages that could benefit from being in a home.” 

Miranda Ferrante | Elon News Network

Elon senior Maria Torres Monteverde stands beside the Burlington Animal Services sign after volunteering at the shelter Aug. 22. 

Burlington Animal Services will provide a tent for Torres Monteverde and her two friends, junior Emma Leonard and senior Maddy Murdock, to use for fundraising the day of the event. 

Leading up to Sunday’s triathlon, Torres Monteverde’s efforts to create awareness about the organization and the race have been through social media and conversation. Between the funds raised beforehand and the day of, she hopes to raise at least $5,000 for Burlington Animal Services. As of Sept. 4, she said she has raised $1,300 and expects to hit the $5,000 mark at the triathlon. 

Director of Burlington Animal Services Jessica Arias said she is appreciative of the efforts. 

“So grateful Maria has selected us to be the recipient of her fundraiser,” Arias said. “We really count on the support of the community through volunteer opportunities and donations. It really helps support the animals in our care.” 

Arias said the shelter’s medical programs benefit from these funds, allowing them to provide required medical procedures for pets prior to adoption and lifting an additional cost from potential owners.

“We're so appreciative of donations for our medical care fund that directly support shelter pets,” Arias said. “We especially appreciate Elon students, they have been a tremendous help for our agency and fostering pets short term.” 

Leonard met Torres Monteverde through the Alpha Kappa Psi co-ed business fraternity, as Torres Monteverde was her mentor. Leonard remembers going over to Torres Monteverde’s apartment and saw she had a cat. Before she met Torres Monteverde, Leonard said she didn’t really know what it meant or looked like to have a pet on campus. She got involved with the shelter after interacting with Torres Monteverde and because she loves cats.

“I really want to raise money so that they can get the help they need, but also spread awareness of Burlington Animal Services,” Leonard said. “I think it was just such a positive change to my life, so I want others to recognize how great it could be, and how they could help out too.” 

With the support of Leonard and Murdock, the latter of whom called Torres Monteverde “inspirational,” she hopes to make a difference and bring attention to Burlington Animal Services and the work they do.

“I love it so much, it’s one of my hobbies,” Torres Monteverde said. “I’m not a person that loves to go out and party, and I love to be outdoors or spending time with animals. It’s just been such a blessing to see animals coming to the shelter and then get them out of there, finding them a home. It’s just so rewarding.”