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The four students won third place with a dog shelter fundraiser

Four Hallinan Elementary School students’ effort to help dogs in need of a home has earned them a spot in a state competition.

Fourth grader Elliott Rush, fifth grader Erik Smith and third graders Anton Choo and Peter Gentry are heading to the Oregon Destination Imagination state tournament in April. The boys also raised hundreds of dollars for a local dog shelter.

“We didn’t think we would get all the way to the state,” Elliott said.

It all started with two dogs and a coincidence.

The Hallinan quartet was brainstorming a community service project to enter into the DI competition. DI is a state prong of an international program aiming to teach students about the creative process — basically coming up with a project and executing it. Categories include service learning, science, technology and the arts.

Elliott and Erik realized they had something in common. Elliott adopted his dog, Harvey, from Oregon Dog Rescue in Tualatin, and the black Labrador/golden retriever mix became his inspiration. It happened that Erik had adopted his terrier mix, Zoe, from the same shelter.

The boys learned from shelter spokeswoman Nancy Truax that the place needs new flooring in the pooches’ living quarters, and the no-kill shelter always needs supplies. So, the boys had a cause — and Truax’s respect.

The students “are awesome,” she said. “I can’t believe those third, fourth and fifth graders did such an amazing job. They were so committed to the project.”

Canvassing the neighborhood and holding a dog parade earlier this month at their school brought in more than $725 and six large boxes of dog supplies including leashes, collars and paper towels, said Diana Laboy-Rush, Elliot’s mother. Laboy-Rush coaches the Hallinan boys and another school team that tried for the DI tournament’s engineering category.

The Hallinan boys’ goal was $250, 20 event attendees and a 10-dog parade. More than 100 people attended, and three-times the anticipated number of four-legged companions marched in the main event. Laboy-Rush said the event’s success meant a lot to the boys.

“They were very proud of themselves,” she said.

Anton, Elliott, Erik and Peter put together a video documentary of their project, entering it into the DI contest. They also performed a group skit at a regional competition last Saturday to demonstrate their cooperation skills. The boys landed third place.

Erik said that he is proud of the honor and also appreciates “knowing that what we did really helped and that we actually did good.”

His mother, Nilla Persson, said the team was self-led.

“It has truly been student led,” Persson said. “There haven’t been parents or anyone else involved. These kiddos have figured it out on their own.”

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