Young Animal Lover Makes Big Impact at Unatego Elementary

By Allison Collins

UNADILLA – In response to devastating Hurricane Florence flooding, one Unatego Elementary fifth-grader took matters into her own hands, for the sake of paws.

Amiley Thorsland, 10, of Unadilla, kick-started a pet supply drive at the K-5 school to benefit animals affected by the Category 1 hurricane, which made landfall Sept. 14 in primarily Virginia and the Carolinas. Though organized quickly, Thorsland’s efforts resulted in 613 collected items.

For Thorsland, whom teachers and peers describe as an avid animal lover and advocate, action was the only response to news of abandoned critters.

Sometimes I hear things randomly on the news,” she said, “and I heard about Hurricane Florence and how some people were leaving their animals behind and I was like, ‘Really?’ so I asked my mom if we could do a fundraiser.”

And I knew with the stores flooded, it’s not easy to get the pet supplies down there,” she added.

Unatego Elementary Principal Katherine Mazourek said she got involved after Thorsland approached her in early September.

She said, “Amiley brought the idea to me before the hurricane even hit, but I was trying to figure out logistics—how would the food get there? Who would pay for it? After talking to Amiley’s mom, Sheena Thorsland, I was assured that the Thorsland family would figure out how to get the goods to the appropriate shelters affected by Hurricane Florence.”

My mom has people down there that were coming up here,” Thorsland noted, “and they’ll take it all back down.”

Students were asked to bring cat and dog food, cat and dog treats and toys, cat litter, blankets, towels and more to school between Sept. 24 and 28. Mazourek noted that the class with the most donations, Kelli Hafele’s kindergarten group, with 145 items, is receiving a pizza party provided by Pondo’s Pizza in Oneonta. Pondo’s is owned by the Thorsland family.

Thorsland’s initiative, Mazourek said, was easy to get behind.

I jumped on board because it was something that I knew the community would support,” she said. “It was a selfless act for some helpless animals.”

I was excited by how many items came in,” Mazourek added. “I love that our community came together to provide 613 items for this cause. We are lucky to have so many animal lovers.”

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