CRESTVIEW — Spend five minutes with Sydney Sims and you’ll see how much she loves animals, especially cats.

Sims, a 2019 Crestview High School graduate, has been fostering animals since she was 16 years old.

“We started this all because of our cat Steven, who we had since a kitten,” Sims said. “He managed to slip the door when we were moving a big box. He was black and white, and it was night. It was 15 to 20 minutes before we found him.”

Sims said after the incident in 2017, her mom saw a post on Facebook from PAWS asking for foster families. Sims’ family knew they wanted to help. Steven died in March of that year and the family started fostering animals a few months later.

“We picked up our first three, then a couple days late we picked up a mom and three babies and then it kept going from there,” Sims said.

Sydney mainly fosters neonatal and medically needy kittens and cats, but she has also fostered dogs, rabbits and rats.

Caring for the animals takes a lot of work, such as feeding the animals by bottle or tube and transporting animals to and from the vet. Sydney has been using help from her mom to care for the animals while balancing fostering and school.

“It’s a lot of lack of sleep,” Sydney said. “Anytime I had free time in class I would try and get some work done so I had less to do here, so I could make sure I could still get some sleep. Getting out of the house and going to Starbucks or the library helped too.”

“She had to remove herself from the house to get work done because otherwise she would go back to taking care of kittens,” added Sydney’s mom, Nicole.

Sydney’s love for cats and fostering turned into a nonprofit foster organization called Steven’s Sanctuary, named after her cat.

“It actually started out as a joke,” Sims said. “We were all in our kitchen talking about our little dream world where we would have property and have a little house just for the cats called Steven’s Sanctuary. Then in March we got our 501c3.”

Sydney also started working at PAWS in Laurel Hill in December after she turned 18.

“I had been waiting since before then counting down the days, because I didn’t want to work in fast food, I wanted to work there,” Sydney said.

Sydney’s love for animals carried past the local area when she helped raise money to take a truckload of food over to animals in the affected area after Hurricane Michael.

“It was twelve cases of wet food and twelve big bags of cat food,” Sydney said.

Sydney graduated from Crestview High School on Friday. She said she plans to work with Laurel Hill PAWS through the summer, before heading off to college with a plan to become a veterinarian.

For more information, visit Sydney’s Instagram page: Sims.Foster.Family.