Elementary school students collect $8,000+ to benefit animals hurt by Australian wildfires

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More than $8,000 will be heading to Australia to help animals injured by the wildfires, thanks to the efforts of some Toms River elementary school students.

East Dover Elementary School third-grader Olivia Frantantoni started the “Coins for Koalas and Kangaroos” effort after being about what is happening in Australia and how the animals there are getting hurt.

“I just think they are really cute and I wish I could have one as a pet,” Frantantoni says.

And while Frantantoni probably won’t be able to have a koala or a kangaroo in New Jersey, she says that helping them out is the next best thing.

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“These wildfires are just out of control and there’s so many of them,” the 8-year-old says. “They’re getting really hurt, so I wanted to save them.”

Frantantoni’s friend and class Benjamin Kempner heard about the effort and offered to get involved. The two kids put buckets in every classroom and asked their classmates to donate spare change every day. The entire school became involved and raised over $4,000 in about three weeks.

“This is all just a little over 750 kids who raised over $4,000. It’s pretty amazing,” Kempner says.

Wednesday was the last day to collect the coins. The classroom that collected the most also won a pizza party. But everyone involved says that the entire school and the community are the true winners for what they accomplished.

“Some days there were $20 bills, some days a few pennies. All of it counts,” says Kempner.

The Zoological Association of New Jersey at the Turtle Back Zoo is matching the donations raised in Toms River. All the money collected will go to the Wildlife Warriors Foundation at the National Zoo in Sydney, Australia, run by the Irwin family.

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