Aspen Elementary fifth graders donate toys to Evanston Animal Shelter

Courtney Kent’s Aspen Elementary fifth grade class shared holiday cheer by making toys for shelter animals. Kent got the idea from her sister and says, “When she shared the idea with me, I loved it and wanted to give it a try. It was a way to get the students thinking outside of themselves and since they are fifth-graders, I felt that they could handle the responsibility and ownership of making these toys.” Kent said her students really enjoyed the experience and she feels blessed that they were able to go on a field trip to see the animals. She says “Because our class is small, we were able to go and deliver the toys for the animals, which really made the whole experience worthwhile!”

Kent’s class used donated clothes, towels, and other supplies to make the toys. They tapped into their creativity, making rope/knot toys, items with bells for the cats, and even hand-stitched sweaters for the animals. Kent says, “They were very basic toys, but the kids really took pride in their creations.”

When asked why this field trip was such a success, Kent replied, “Kids love animals and it helped them think of someone other than themselves. We always feel good when doing service, and I think the kids learned that through this experience.”

Kent plans to make visiting the shelter a yearly tradition for her classroom during Christmas time and says next year she might see what other items the shelter needs and possibly do an animal food drive at the school and then have the fifth-graders deliver those items along with toys they make.

Kent said the shelter’s Community Service Officer, Terri Spero, “was really great to work with, very accommodating and so great with the kids.” Spero has worked as an animal control officer and at the shelter for 18 years and said, “If anyone is interested in adopting, please come out and see the animals. The animals help humans as much as humans help them.”    

Not only is there a need for shelter adoptions at the local level but at a national level as well. As shelters across the country approach capacity, sources link reasons to decline of virtual work, a national housing shortage and the rising cost of kibble, among other factors.

More animals entered shelters than left them, according to a report by the nonprofit Shelter Animals Count. The report states that more animals are staying in shelters now than before the pandemic and stray dogs and owner-surrendered cats are entering shelters at their highest rate in four years.

Desperate pleas from overtaxed animal rescue workers have made headlines across the nation. One of Evanston’s animal control officers, Randy Chandler, worked in law enforcement for 40 years and trained police dogs for two decades. Despite circumstances that shelter animals have experienced, he said he is inspired by the hope and resilience of dogs. Chandler added, “It is amazing how dogs and humans choose each other.”

Video News