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No gifts, please: Girl foregoes presents to help animal shelter

ROCK FALLS – Zoie Howard gave up birthday presents for herself in favor of donations to the local animal shelter.

Zoie, who turned 9 on Sunday, celebrated her birthday Thursday with friends and Saturday with family, and asked all those who attended her parties to bring dog food, cat food and cat litter instead of gifts.

“I love animals so much, and I wanted to do something to help them,” Zoie said. “Some of them have been abused or neglected, and it just makes me feel bad. And all the people who work there need help getting stuff [for the animals]. I thought I could do that to help them.”

On Thursday, nine kids, mostly from her third-grade class at Merrill School, visited Happy Tails Humane Society to drop off their donations and play with some of the adoptable animals.

Then on Saturday, relatives brought more items; some brought presents for the birthday girl anyway.

“Everyone is proud of me,” Zoie said. “A few people said it was an unselfish thing to do. It makes me feel proud, too.”

Zoie, her friends and her family collected several bags and cans of dog and cat food, several jugs and boxes of cat litter and even a few bags of treats – probably 25 items total. Half the donations made it to the shelter Thursday, and the other half will be dropped off today.

Parents Lucas and Gretchen Howard were impressed with their daughter’s gesture.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Gretchen said. “And I knew our family and her friends would be on board to help her.”

“It was surprising,” Lucas added.

“We’re very proud of her, though – for a 9-year-old to give up gifts to help animals is a big deal,” Gretchen said.

Happy Tails posted a video of the kids’ visit to the shelter Thursday on its Facebook page; the post received more than 40 likes and several comments.

Someday, Zoie, who twice before had visited the shelter to drop off donations, hopes to volunteer there. In the meantime, the spunky 9-year-old is planning her next birthday party, which could again involve a selfless gesture.

Zoie has one brother, Duke Massey, 3, and two dogs, Sadie, a black lab, and Ruby, a pug-Shar-Pei mix. The family lives in Rock Falls.

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