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Duniway student gathers pennies to save animal habitats

Henry Matusow is a self-starter.

After learning about the plight of wild animals and their shrinking habitats, the Duniway third grader, on his own, vowed to do something about it.

With the support of his teacher, Joanne Chow, and Principal Sara Hahn, he established a March penny drive for students at Duniway as well as at Woodstock’s Whole Child Montessori Center – his former alma mater. He had originally pledged to send the World Wildlife Fund $350 for conservation purposes, but he ended up collecting and sending a whopping total – $2,823.74!

by: RITA A. LEONARD - Duniway student Henry Matusow, with his cat, Luna. The third grader raised a total of $2,823.74 to help preserve wildlife habitats.Principal Hahn had advised the boy, “If you really want to do this, you’re going to do it right.” She helped him organize his goals, and allowed him to make and hang posters around the school. He prepared a notice for the school’s weekly newsletter, and he was provided time to present his story to each class. He decorated donation jars, which his friend George helped him distribute.

Henry first learned about shrinking animal habitats from an article he read about an endangered desert ground owl. “I worry that people are building in, and destroying, animal habitats, making it difficult for them to survive,” he explained. His favorite animal is the tiger, among other cat species, he says.

The young man researched various conservation organizations, and settled on The World Wildlife Fund. “They appealed to me, since they seemed to use donations the most efficiently,” he explained. “I pledged to send $350, and decided that a penny drive might prompt other kids to contribute their spare change. I asked students to check behind couch cushions, in their family cars, and maybe even raid their piggy banks for spare change.

“Everything from pennies to $20 bills came in, but there were mostly quarters. My mom and dad brought me to a change converter at the end of the month. It was fun pouring the coins in from Zip-Loc bags. I was surprised to see that it added up to $657.”

But there was more to come!

Family friends raised $13, and relatives and businesses chipped in, too. “My friend Dillon contributed $40 from his parents’ job,” Henry recalled, “And someone else sent in a check for $10. My grandfather, and my parents, had pledged to match the school’s donations, and my Grandmother matched my classroom’s donation.

“My Dad works at Microsoft, and after he told them about my project, Microsoft also matched the school’s donation. When we added it all up, it came to $2,823.74. We were amazed.” Henry sent the entire amount to The World Wildlife Fund. His school and family are very proud of his success. “If other people want to contribute to the WWF, they can check online, at www.worldwildlife.org, and do their own research,” he told THE BEE. It just goes to show what the inspiration of a single person can bring about.