Helping Animals: This Family's Tradition
by Lee Chambers
Cameron, left and his sister Natalie at Dakin
What does a philanthropic young Girl Scout cadet do when a pandemic brings a halt to your annual cookie sale? In Natalie's case, you set up a display at A. W. Brown's store in East Longmeadow, sell them to the public, and donate the proceeds to help animals at Dakin.
“She and I did this fundraiser on our own,” stated Lori, Natalie's mother. “We had a significant inventory of cookies at the time, so we put a flyer together and called it Cookies for a Cause.” A table was set up by the register at the store, and the staff collected the funds. “It was a touchless presentation,” remembered Lori. “It was run on the honor system and people picked up their boxes themselves, so everyone felt comfortable with that.” The effort yielded over $350 for Dakin animals.
Added Natalie with a laugh, “People were saying that they were eating too many cookies during the quarantine, but they'd buy our cookies and say that it 'totally canceled out the guilt.'”
Natalie is 13 years old. She, her 11-year old brother Cameron and her parents Lori and Michael have a long history of supporting Dakin animals, which began with a fundraiser to celebrate Natalie's 7th birthday. She requested two subsequent birthday fundraisers, and Cameron wanted one, too. Lori and Michael have made donations in honor of friends as birthday gifts, and gifted their kids' teachers with Dakin donations in their name as holiday or end-of-school-year gifts.
According to Lori, “We've always had pets in our home and we love them very much. They are such an important part of our family, and we love supporting Dakin because we want to help animals get the care they need.” “I just loved animals since I was little,” added Natalie. “I'd come home from school and watch animal shows.”
The pet lineup includes Sully the dog, Lucy the cat, and a trio of rats Natalie adopted at Dakin last year. Her original plan was to adopt a pair, but, “I went in and saw them all huddled up together, and I melted. There were three two-month old rats,” she laughed. “I think my parents' original plan was for me to adopt one, but I said they're social and need to be in pairs, well, all Dakin had was three and they had to go home together!” Now Luna, Sky and Nova have blended seamlessly into the family and can often be seen hitching a ride on Natalie or Lori's shoulder around the house.
While Lori is pleased to see her family's donations directed to Dakin's greatest need, Natalie is happiest knowing that her gifts have helped support the adoption center. “I wouldn't have Luna, Nova and Sky without it,” she stated. “I'm forever grateful.”