Texas Zoo thanks Vickers students for donation

Gabriella Canales By Gabriella Canales

Oct. 12, 2017 at 10:12 p.m.

Kristin Kohutek, 9, looks up at The Texas Zoo's opossum, Nero, as Kate Boughal, 28, carries him around to show the Vickers Elementary School students. Zoo officials brought animals to the school to thank the students for raising money to help the zoo.

Kristin Kohutek, 9, looks up at The Texas Zoo's opossum, Nero, as Kate Boughal, 28, carries him around to show the Vickers Elementary School students. Zoo officials brought animals to the school to thank the students for raising money to help the zoo.   Olivia Vanni for The Victoria Advocate

Vickers Elementary School second-grader Elijah Posey opened his blue eyes wide while his mouth curled into a smile as he brushed two fingers along the soft shell of Pecos Bill, a Texas tortoise.

"I want a tortoise as a pet," Elijah, 8, said. "Kids should help because it's a nice thing to do."

The Texas Zoo officials brought prairie dogs, a skunk, an opossum and a tortoise to the school Thursday to thank students and staff for raising $2,800 during their two-week coin drive.

After seeing a presentation by zoo officials about the damage sustained to the facility in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, students were able to see the animals.

The class that raised the most money, about $423, was Jenna Pate's second-grade class, which got a special session with the animals.

Her students were competing at first to win the popsicle party but then became motivated by the act of charity, she said.

"It shows them to be selfless," Pate said. "They can make a difference."

Students would run down the halls throughout the donation period carrying plastic bags full of change to special education teacher Niki Visconti's classroom.

Visconti coordinated the fundraiser and approached campus administrators with the idea because the zoo is a frequent field trip location and she saw the damage sustained to the facility after the hurricane, she said.

"They blew me away," Visconti said. "These kids can help."

Donations surpassed the goal of $1,000 in three days, said Steve Carroll, principal at Vickers Elementary.

"It was very heartwarming," Carroll said.

During each of his nine years as principal, he said, the school has made donations to a variety of organizations.

"It shows the students they are part of a larger community," he said.

Ten percent of the donations received by the Texas Zoo have come from the students, said Katie Boughal, the zoo's environmental educator.

Donations collected by the school will go to help rebuild the fencing around the stage area and back fencing, she said.

The school set an example for others who may want to aid in hurricane relief, Boughal said.

"Children can lead the way," she said.

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