Hero 4th Graders Use Their Recess Time to Help Homeless Cats Find Forever Families

The trio of cat-rescuing crusaders started "Pets, Paws & Claws" to make a difference in their Ohio town.

three girls each holding a cat
Photo: Courtesy of Brittney Eshelman

It's amazing how much you can accomplish during recess. For 4th graders Callie, Evelyn, and Jenna of Versailles, Ohio, a spark of inspiration a year ago led to some serious brainstorming.

"We were reading a story at school about a girl who helped save a zoo that was going to shut down in her community," Evelyn says in an interview with Daily Paws. "She loved animals, and started raising money to help them, which gave us the idea to start an organization helping animals, too." Evelyn's family was already active in this community, volunteering to play with shelter animals to help keep them engaged, and fostering pregnant cats and their offspring on behalf of the rescue organization Our Farm Sanctuary in nearby Tipp City.

All three girls loved their pets and wanted to help stray animals, so even though they weren't quite sure what to do yet, they knew something good would happen if they just stuck with it. Jenna says they spent a lot of time talking about ideas during recess, then going to Evelyn's house after school to plan. According to Callie, their mission really started to take shape when they focused on cats.

"We felt bad for the cats that were out alone, and we wanted to help get them homes to help them be better cared for," she says. "We tried to make that happen as best we could." (But she also admits to being more of a 'dog person' with a big heart for all animals.)

And so begins a valuable lesson in the best practices of grassroots activism. With guidance from the professionals at Our Farm Sanctuary and by helping out at other local rescues and shelters, these ambitious youth advocates learned what shelters need most. "When you foster a pet, you have to provide lots of things for them to be healthy, like food, bedding, and toys," Evelyn says. "We use a lot of litter!"

Next on the agenda: fundraising. "We put jars for money in some stores in our town. We asked our family for donations, too," Jenna says. "We used the money at first to buy food and things for the kittens." Callie adds that they also put up flyers at their school, where their principal let them host a drive for food, toys, and anything kids and adults could donate to help the animals.

The result? Pets, Paws, & Claws (PPC), a nonprofit organization for homeless and abandoned felines. The three co-founders divide up duties such as planning and continued fundraising. Evelyn and her family still foster cats, and her sister Audrey maintains the PPC website. "Evelyn's mom, Brittney, also handles a lot of the adult stuff," Callie says. "She takes care of the money, phone calls, organizes the meetings, and helps take us places. We wouldn't be able to do as much without all her help!"

two girls holding cat
Courtesy of Brittney Eshelman

Through PPC, Callie, Evelyn, and Jenna are able to expand their mission in various ways, such as finding homes for a colony of about 20-30 cats currently living under cars, or partnering with veterinarians to ensure the health of pregnant strays and their kittens. Recently, PPC was contacted to help with trapping, neutering, and releasing another outdoor cat colony.

"I feel special knowing we're being asked to help cats because it will give them a better life," Evelyn says. "It's really neat to watch kittens grow, and even though it's sad to say goodbye, our work helps them find real homes."

three girls sitting on floor feeding and holding 6 cats
Courtesy of Brittney Eshelman

Corporate donors and other organizations recognize their work now, too. (Remember, they're in 4th grade!) This brings them closer to achieving a major goal for PPC: a spot called the Shabby Tabby Barn. A standalone sanctuary, the intent is to house cats from various backgrounds together, have a central location for adoption and supplies, and "offer veterinary care, entertainment and of course, our undivided attention and love."

"We're trying to get the message out that people should visit their local shelters and adopt a pet that needs a home rather than going to a pet store," Callie says. "There are plenty of animals now that need homes."

So while we sit back, rethink our adult life choices, and contemplate our need for inspirational recess time, we'll also keep our eyes on the enterprising progress of Callie, Evelyn, and Jenna. It's clear these superheroes are well on their way to making the world a better place, one sweet rescue kitty at a time.

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