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Rowayton Kids Raise Funds for Shelter Animals

Jason Tagariella, 11, doesn't have any pets of his own to clean up after, but he's got animals on his mind and he's working to make sure they're OK.

Jason and his friends at Rowayton Elementary School donate their time to a little commercial venture with one goal in mind: raising money for shelter animals. "We're selling bandanas for PAWS , an animal shelter, where they help dogs and cats," he said Wednesday. "Because we want to help them get a home so they're safe and happy."

Jason and other fourth-graders stayed after school to sell their merchandise, which included chocolate pretzels they had dipped themselves. First-graders are involved, too. "We have an army of 41 students," said Kathleen Hellrigel, one of two teachers leading the children in Pennies for Paws. "For the October fundraiser, they decorated over 500 bags special customized animal bags for popcorn, and we sold popcorn. And we raised about $300 of sales in that. And they do this after school.

"And then we had about 20 kids volunteer to stay after school to dip pretzels. They made over 2,000 pretzels with the help of some phenomenal parent volunteers; without them it could not be done. The come early to man the tables before school, and then they stay late to sell after school."

Hellrigel, a first-grade teacher, and fourth-grade teacher Maura Fried started the drive four years ago. Moneys raised go to PAWS (Pet Animal Welfare Society) and Animal Nation . The before- and after-school sales have netted more than $6,500 for the organizations over the years.

"The reason we made so much was we had a donor match," said Hellrigel. Unfortunately, their corporate donor has backed out. "We're hoping that somebody else will step forward," she said.

"I really like to help animals," Jason said. "I love animals."

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