Girl, 7, gives up birthday presents

Published 9:11 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Moon, the cougar, plays with a ball.

FRANKLIN—Charlotte Fowler sacrificed a lot for a kid.

For her 7th birthday on Dec. 9, she decided to forgo gifts from family and friends in exchange for them making donations of food, toys and money to a non-profit animal education center in Southampton County that houses 130 animals.

“I wanted to help Bear Path Acres,” Charlotte said.

Bonnie the racoon plays with a toy at Bear Path Acres.

Debbie Jeter, founder and director of Bear Path Acres, couldn’t believe the Courtland first-grader’s gesture.

“At first I thought it was a hoax,” Jeter said. “That’s something for a 7-year-old to give up her presents. I was amazed.”

It was something that also made mom Holly Fowler proud.

“Just sacrificing her gifts to help other animals,” she said. “Our family — we’re big animal lovers.”

Fowler said her 9-year-old daughter, Caroline, did something similar when she turned 7. Caroline asked for items for the dogs and cats at the animal shelters in Franklin and Suffolk.

“When we were planning her (Charlotte’s) party, she just chose Bear Path Acres,” Fowler said. “We had recently visited and were impressed with their dedication.”

On the invitations for Charlotte’s birthday party at Windsor Gymnastics Center, children were asked to bring a donation, including toys for the animals, snacks or money.

“She got a good variety of toys, and we came up with $110,” Fowler said.

The day after Charlotte’s birthday, the Fowlers traveled to Bear Path Acres to give everything to Jeter.

“They bought oranges, apples and raisins and at least 35 to 40 toys,” she said. “I’ve got enough to last until springtime.”

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Right now we’re closed,” Jeter said. “There is no income coming in (from visitors). It takes $200 a week just to feed the animals here.”