When Windham Primary School second-graders visited the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals last month, Tyler Thornton, like the rest of his classmates, was deeply affected by the stories he heard.

The gentle animals they met had at one time lived sad lives, the students learned. Horses were beaten, starved and neglected. A pair of goats were found abandoned in a stall, covered in their own waste.

“It made me feel like I was going to cry,” said Thornton, 8, who, along with the rest of Kelly Rich’s class, decided to do something about a problem that weeks before they knew nothing about.

The class returned Tuesday to the society’s facility on River Road, where the organization cares for farm animals seized by law enforcement. The students dropped off a check for $451, as well as more than $500 worth of halters, lead lines, curry combs and hoof picks, the result of fundraising activities held by the class in the month since their first visit. Along the way, the students learned important lessons of empathy, and that all creatures deserve a safe spot in this world.

“They learn that if you can be kind and caring to animals, that should carry over to being kind and caring to humans,” said Rich, who brings her class to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals each year.

“They should treat them just like they treat somebody else, like they’d treat their son or daughter,” said Thornton.

The students, said Rich, felt an instant attachment to the animals, especially the large and graceful horses.

“They are funny because they smiled at my sister once,” said Kolby Farrington, 8. “The goats smiled at her, too.”

To raise the money, students sold T-shirts, donated by Bob “the Screenprinter” Baiguy. With the society’s logo, the tie-dyed creations that were popular among Windham Primary students. Three girls held a bake sale at Shaw’s Supermarkets, raising $130. There was also a bottle drive, and some students, like Allison Drew, did extra chores at home, earning money from their parents, who were also involved in the project.

Through the initial visit and subsequent fundraising, Drew has become more aware of the feelings of those around her, said her mother, Susan. Thinking about how the horses were once treated led Allison to think more about how she treats others, Susan Drew said. The sad stories also made her want to help the animals, and she was excited when the fundraising began.

“She really felt like she could make a difference,” Susan Drew said.

The money makes a difference to a nonprofit organization that relies solely on donations to cover its annual budget, said Meris Bickford, vice president of external affairs for the society.

“We raise all of the money we spend,” she said. “We don’t ask for and we don’t receive any tax dollars.”

The society’s budget for next year will be around $1.7 million, up from $1.3 million in the current year, an increase that Bickford attributed to the rising cost of processed feed and grains.

It costs around $5,000 a year to provide basic care for a horse, Bickford said, and the society houses 87 horses, nine goats, two potbellied pigs, two donkeys and a mule. The costs add up quickly, she said.

The students were more than happy to give their time to the cause. On Tuesday, they again got to see the horses that they worked so hard to help, this time carrying armloads of supplies.

Garrett Peeples, 7, walked into the barn carrying a halter, a hairbrush, and a bottle of spray that gives the horses a shiny coat. As one of the horses stomped and neighed in a nearby stall, and two goats watched from a safe distance, Peeples said he was glad the animals had a good home.

“Now they have a second life,” he said.

Windham Primary School second graders this week donated nearly $1,000 in equipment and cash to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals. Samantha Rowland, 7, brought a hairbrush to give to the horses at the MSSPA’s barn in Windham.Daniel Davis and his classmates in Kelly Rich’s second grade class at Windham Primary School delivered nearly $1,000 in donations Tuesday to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals.


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