10-year-old birthday girl raises more than $10,000 for Centre County PAWS

Hitting double digits is a big deal to most kids.

Ask them what they want for their birthday and they might say a new video game, bike or, if they’re really ambitious, the latest iPhone.

And then there is 10-year-old Katherine Spicer, who wants the same thing every year — a birthday party at Centre County PAWS where friends and family bring gifts for the pets, not for her. And you only turn 10 once, so she thought about making this occasion a little bit bigger.

Katherine and her mother, Christina Bowers, began to talk about it in early April and came up with the idea to raise money for the no-kill shelter. They agreed to set a $10,000 goal, $1,000 for each of her birthdays.

“It’s a big a year, and it was a really big step for her to say this is what she wanted to do for her 10th birthday,” Bowers said. “I wouldn’t have done that at 10 years old. It’s an incredibly generous, selfless act, and it’s what she wanted.”

It wasn’t a surprise to those who know her.

Katherine’s father, Jake Spicer, said since the time she could crawl she was drawn to the family pets. A decade later, she often checks the PAWS website to keep track of what dogs and cats are up for adoption, how long they’ve been there and will even call if one is returned.

“We had to help one dog named Honey, and she watched him like a hawk,” PAWS Director of Operations Lisa Bahr said. “When Honey didn’t work out in her first home they called to find out how she was doing.”

They raised a small amount before her April 16 birthday and recently exceeded their goal on a GoFundMe page. PAWS director of development and marketing Chris Faust said the money would likely be used for medical expenses, which exceeded $150,000 in 2015.

The attention is strange. I just wanted to do this for the cats and dogs.

Katherine Spicer

“I thought we could raise half of it, so I was really surprised,” Katherine said Tuesday at PAWS.

“I’m not really all that surprised, because when Katherine puts her mind to something she’s going to do it,” Jake Spicer said. “I don’t know if it was in the time she wanted to do it by her birthday (on April 16), but I knew if she wanted to do it she would. She isn’t deterred from her goals.”

Katherine also got more than she bargained for — media coverage.

“The attention is strange,” she said. “I just wanted to do this for the cats and dogs.”

She also got a memento to keep from PAWS after hundreds of its volunteers signed a table-sized “Thank You” card. But, maybe the best gift was a few moments with some of pets she helped.

Katherine sat on a bench in a meeting room with about a dozen cats in it. Two in particular, sisters Cinderella and Lady, jockeyed for position to get her affection. Bahr said a third sister was adopted, leaving the other two behind to wait for a new home. Each was given up n April when their family moved and couldn’t take pets.

She also got some down time with two recently surrendered dogs, a Boston terrier mix named Rocco and a hound named Bubbles.

“Rocco was just surrendered a few days ago,” Faust said. “It’s been difficult on him. He’s had high anxiety, so he’s getting a lot of love and care from our volunteers. He’s just really stressed in the kennels. He lived with his family for seven years, and he’s just been crying. Our goal is to find him a foster home. It was really good to get him out and around more people today. You could tell he was excited to be around Katherine.”

Bubbles was surrendered about three weeks ago, Bahr said, because his family could not afford a dog.

“He’s doing well, but he’s very high energy and wants to be around people,” Bahr said. “He was actually being very good, because he likes to jump a little bit, but he just leaned into (Katherine), gave her a kiss on the face and just soaked in any attention she gave him.”

Katherine also motivated another student at Port Matilda Elementary School.

“One person in the third-grade class was inspired to raise money for homeless people,” she said.

And for her 11th birthday?

“We’ll raise money again for PAWS,” Katherine said.

Shawn Annarelli: 814-235-3928, @Shawn_Annarelli