Third graders helping with cause

FORESTVILLE – Barbara Faxlanger’s third grade class at Forestville Elementary School organized and is now conducting a fundraising event to help keep the polar bears at the Buffalo Zoo.

According to information on the zoo’s website, polar bears have been favorite animals for more than a century. The zoo has long had a successful breeding program for this animal. Currently Luna, a cub born at the zoo on Nov. 27, can be seen. Kali, a male cub born in the wild in Alaska and orphaned, should be joining her soon. Kali will stay until he is given a permanent home, possibly at the St. Louis Zoo.

Founded in 1875, the Buffalo Zoo is the third oldest in the country. Because standards have changed in the way animals are kept, cared for and exhibited, the zoo has had the task of upgrading its exhibit areas. It is building an Arctic Edge area which will house polar bears, arctic wolf, bald eagle, and Canadian lynx. The area will meet the standards adopted by the Association of Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the zoo’s professional accrediting body. So far, the zoo has raised $14 million for the exhibit. It is now calling on people to help finish the campaign by raising $4 million more. The campaign is using the phrase “Our bears belong in Buffalo” and calling improvements “Bear Necessities.”

Faxlanger grew up in Depew and Clarence and often visited the zoo with her grandparents as a child. She has great memories of the time spent there.

She said, “I’m eager to take on projects such as this with the children I teach. Children are natural animal lovers, supporters, and advocates. Just as we raised money for the elephants six years ago, we’re now doing the same for the polar bears. The children were excited to hear of Luna’s birth, and were ecstatic when we read of the plight of Kali and the plans to move him here to be raised with Luna for a time. There is so much for the children to learn in this process, and it’s been an exciting journey for us, to be able to contribute in our own way.”

So far the third graders have raised $238.12. They distributed 280 polar bear banks to elementary students, teachers, administrators and school board members and are urging everyone to save their change for the polar bears. Two students made a presentation to the board of education in March. Five students created video commercials. These, as well as more information about the project, can be accessed from the schools website www.forestville.com.

Faxlanger reports that students are very excited to see Luna growing. Comments have included “She’s getting so big! She won’t be as cute pretty soon. She’ll just be a big bear. We need to get this money raised soon, while she’s still cute!”

She said students were interested in and pleased with the “accidental hunter” who killed Kali’s mom, then looked and looked until he found the cub, carried him home, and made sure he was taken care of properly. She has heard “Aren’t we lucky that Kali’s coming to Buffalo to be with Luna for awhile?” from her students.

An exciting aspect of the project is an anonymous donor who has pledged to match monies raised up to $500. The donor is also providing a full year family zoo membership (a $75 value) to the student who raises the most money.

The public is invited to participate in the third-graders’ efforts. Tax deductible donations may be made by sending a check made payable to “Buffalo Zoo Campaign” to Mrs. Faxlanger’s Third Grade Class, Forestville Elementary School, 12 Water St, Forestville, NY 14062.

The fundraiser ends May 22 and all banks should be returned by then.

Comments on this article may be directed to dchodan@observertoday.com