WESLEY CHAPEL — Sloppy Joes, crispy chicken bites and the "lean machine combo" were among the lunch menu offerings for students at Wesley Chapel Elementary School. But while making their way to the food line, students passed by more than 3,000 cans and bags of pet food stacked against the cafeteria wall.
Collecting all that food in just a few weeks an impressive feat for members of the school's safety patrol. It was also a tangible reminder for others about the furry creatures in need of a helping hand.
Not that kids require much nudging.
Once again Wesley Chapel students showed their affinity for animals by pitching in to the Safety Patrol's annual "Wild Cat" Community Service project. Last year students and faculty donated 5,000 pet food items to Labor of Love Animal Rescue, Inc., a nonprofit volunteer organization that rescues and finds homes for strays and helps stem the feral cat population through the TNR (trap, neuter and return) program in Pasco and Hillsborough counties. This year the school partnered with Veterans Elementary students which donated about 800 pet food items during its Furry February food drive.
"It gives them a chance to show compassion and give back to the community," said physical education teacher and safety patrol sponsor Christopher Gorman.
And perhaps, get a little something in return.
Those who donated 10 cans or more were given an honorary safety patrol pin; 200 cans or more guarantees entrance to the patrol's end-of-year Water Slide Celebration. A shiny, tall trophy goes to whoever brings the most.
"I think they're having fun," said safety patrol captain Olivia March, 11, who helped coordinate the project and dole out incentives with Savannah Kowalski, 11.
Prizes are nice, but even better is the basic good thought behind it.
"I just want to help keep cats alive and safe," Savannah said. "And I want them to have a good home."