FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The kindergarten students at Murray Elementary School were busy Feb. 10 as they prepared to celebrate the 100th day of school by donating pet food to the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society.

In Robin Eaton's class, students were making masks out of the number "100" and excitedly moving the 100th straw over to the bin where they count the school days. The children buzzed around the classroom, showing off their masks as they waited to assemble in the entry way for the big event.

"We're making 100s today because it's the hundredth day of school. It's a special day," said Mackenzie Neal, a kindergartner at Murray. "After today, we're going to start back at one."

Eaton wanted to help make the day even more special, which led to the students bringing a bag or can of pet food to donate to FAPS as part of the day's activities. The goal was to have 100 items donated with the children counting each item as it was placed in the pile.

"It's a personal passion of mine," said Eaton, who owns two golden retrievers. "It was a perfect fit to combine our celebration of the 100th day of school with bringing in a donation for a cat or dog in need. Many of the students have pets of their own and it helps them see the need for compassion and charity."

Kitty Howard, FAPS director, and Anita Squires, FAPS board member, were on hand to ensure the children's donations went directly to the animals they work hard to protect. Howard said she was touched by the children's enthusiasm.

"I think that it's very sweet that they are thinking of the animals," said Howard.
Squires agreed.

"This is so important," she said. "It's helping instill the importance of empathy and sharing in them while they're young. It's something that will stay with them for a long time."

The event fell slightly short of its goal of 100 donations, but that didn't dampen the students', or the teachers', enthusiasm. The children applauded themselves at the end of the drive, knowing that they helped an animal in need.

"Dogs and cats love you very much," Eaton told the students. "They give you love no matter what, even when you're having a really, bad day. You're helping take care of the animals that other people can't take care of anymore. You're showing them that you love them and that you appreciate the love they give you."