Needy pets find friends in kids

Shawano students raise funds for shelter

Leader Photo by Scott Williams Gracie Hensel, left, joins her fellow volunteers in selling cookies, muffins and other treats in the Olga Brener Intermediate School cafeteria to raise funds for the Shawano County Humane Society.

Leader Photo by Scott Williams Teaming up for the community service project are, from left, Layden Stemper, Kendra Strebel, Gracie Hensel, Kendra Westphal and Rachael Carroll.

Gracie Hensel looked at the pictures of stray dogs and cats in an animal shelter, and she knew she could not turn away and do nothing.

So she thought up a plan to raise funds to help stray animals by rallying support from the people she knows best: her fellow students at Olga Brener Intermediate School in Shawano.

The fourth-grader has joined with classmates in a fundraising drive to support the Shawano County Humane Society so that dogs and cats there are as happy and comfortable as possible.

“I’ve always loved animals,” Gracie said. “It makes me excited just to know that something me and my friends did succeeded.”

Offering a bake sale in the Olga Brener cafeteria, the students raised nearly $200 in the first few days selling cookies and muffins and other treats. They are continuing their drive this week in hopes of delivering a generous show of support to animals at the humane society.

Teacher Karen Braun said it is the first time she has ever seen such young kids launch a community service project without any prodding from parents or others.

“I’m just really proud of them,” Braun said. “I think it’s really neat.”

One of Gracie’s friends, Kendra Strebel, admits that she was a little skeptical at first about the idea, but when she heard Gracie talk about ensuring that dogs and cats have enough to eat and a comfortable place to sleep, Kendra knew she had to get involved.

Kendra also had a sense that other kids at Olga Brener would respond to a bake sale designed to help innocent stray animals.

“I was like, ‘I’ll do my best and try to bake some things,’” she recalled. “I hope it will save quite a few pets.”

It all began when Gracie, 10, saw pictures from an out-of-town animal shelter that seemed to show animals laying on bare concrete floors in cages. She also learned that such facilities sometimes struggle for funding needed to properly care for animals.

In addition to Kendra Strebel, other students helping with the bake sale include fellow fourth-graders Layden Stemper, Kendra Westphal and Rachael Carroll.

They also are selling pens decorated with colored duct tape to look like flowers.

Gracie’s mother, Jennifer Lidbury, said she was not surprised to hear that her daughter was leading such a community service project. Gracie has always been an animal lover and has always shown strong instincts for helping others, Lidbury said.

“It’s something she would do,” Lidbury said. “She’s just always been a good person.”