Students set record for biggest Humane Society drive

By Ryan Cornell

QUICKSBURG — Students at Ashby Lee Elementary School had a doggone fun time on Thursday.

The school wrapped up its month-long pet supply drive, collecting nearly 1,800 pounds — items were rounded up to the nearest pound — of dog and cat food, toys, treats and other donated supplies.

The supplies will go to the Humane Society of Shenandoah County and other local animal rescues.

Society President Melisa Miller-Piselli said this is the most donations the 501c3 organization has ever received from a single location.

She said the supplies will be given out to people who can’t afford pet food, the elderly or shut-in pet owners, and to the many feral cats in the county.

“It will go a long way to help people in this community,” Miller-Piselli said.

Julie Walthall, a speech pathologist at Ashby Lee, said the school has had a Relay For Life team for the past several years, but noticed the same group of teachers were helping out year after year.

This year, the faculty decided to do something different: they would support a new cause each month. Teachers would get a turn choosing an organization, and this February, it was Walthall’s turn.

“I have a love for animals, they’re dear to my heart,” said Walthall, who has a cat and two dogs, one that was rescued from a trash bin. “These kids are so into it.”

The two classes that raised the most donations received a visit from Vicki Lutz and her three therapy dogs on Thursday. Lutz, a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, taught kids dog training basics and lessons about responsibility.

Diane Driver’s first grade class raised the most with a total of 381 pounds and Kim Dorman’s tailed behind with 283 pounds.

Eli Wymer, 6, a student in Driver’s class, won movie tickets after bringing in the most supplies. The first grader brought in about 266 pounds of donations, including blankets and bags of pet food.

He said he did it “so the dogs won’t die and they won’t be hungry and thirsty.”

He said he loves all animals, especially his four dogs at home.

“They’re always excited to see me,” he said. “I get love from them.”

Amanda Furman teaches class for English language learners. She brought her 9-month-old Boston Terrier-French Bulldog puppy, Luna, to school every day for February’s “Love the Animals Month.” Students read to her and watched her on the announcements, where the two shared animal facts.

“I certainly hope we can continue it [the drive] next year,” Furman said.

Ashby Lee raised $470 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in October, $838 for the That Others May Live Foundation in November and $487 for Response Inc. in January.

The school is planning to support the Mount Jackson Food Pantry next month, Autism Speaks in April and Relay For Life in May.

The Humane Society of Shenandoah County also provides free spay and neuter services to low-income dog or cat owners. For more information about the organization, visit hsscva.org or call 540-984-7101.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com