BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A local Fort Madison student took a passion for animals and turned it into a means to raise funds for the local Toys for Tots program.
Abbygail Wheeler, a 14-year-old student at Fort Madison Middle School, made more than 30 dog pillows in less than five weeks and sold them to area residents. She then took the money and bought toys for the Semi of Love trailer at Westland Mall.
Wheeler said she chose the idea because she has a passion for animals and loves being around them and the project helps keep her happy.
Every year at the Westland Mall, the New Mix 107.3 KGRS’ Semi of Love is parked on the lot and they collect money and raise funds for Toys of Tots. Wheeler doesn’t donate the money from the sales, but instead purchases toys locally to take over to the semi.
The pillows came in three different sizes: small, medium, and large with price tags of $4, $8, and $12 and Wheeler raised more than $200 in just over a month selling more than 30 of the pillows.
“You get the order and it depends if we have the material or not. If we don’t, we go out and buy it and we don’t use sales proceeds for the materials, that’s our money, so we’re donating, too. I sew the pattern and then my mom stuffs it and my grandmother finishes stitching it up,” she said.
Wheeler said she stopped taking orders on Friday, but may continue to do pillows if there is a demand and then she would donate the money to area animal causes.
“I still don’t like thinking of selling them afterward and keeping the money. I don’t like thinking that way, I might keep doing it and donate the money to a dog cause afterwards. I’m just not sure yet.”
Giving back has been a part of her upbringing. Wheeler said her mother, Sarah Droege, has always showed her the importance if helping others when possible.
“My mom donates a lot and helps homeless people when we go into big cities. Every year we also do the angel tree where we take an angel and get a toy for someone. And that’s fun for me and makes me happy. I like buying toys for other people,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler said she may do the project again next year.
“This is something that keeps me happy. We went to P.A.W. and donated some to them, too. And I wanted to thank the Fort Madison Middle School and The Madison for helping me reach my goals,” she said.