As virtual learning and social distancing became the norm this spring, many parents found themselves struggling to find creative outlets for their kids. One Lowcountry family enjoyed some time spent helping neighbors connect with nature.

The Onofrio family of Okatie organized a creative fundraiser benefiting Palmetto Animal League.

“My wife saw a picture of a squirrel sitting at a picnic table and she asked me to make her one,” said Kevin Onofrio. “Once we got a squirrel to sit at ours, I posted a picture on our neighborhood Facebook page. Everybody started asking me to make them one. We had so many requests, I posted on Oldfield’s Facebook page that if anyone would like a picnic table, they would be $25 each with all proceeds being donated to PAL.”

Working alongside his daughters, Onofrio started building more miniature picnic tables for squirrels. Marina, 10, and Myra, 7, had a blast as they passed their quarantine time helping the homeless animals they love so much.

It took them just a few days to make 50 tables, and they raised $1,250 in donations.

The Onofrios first got involved with PAL when they started bringing their daughters to PAL’s No Kill Adoption Center to socialize with the cats. “We choose to help animals because they don’t have a voice, and we choose to support PAL because they run strictly on donations with no state funding,” said Onofrio.

Before long, they began to realize just how great the need is, so they asked about fostering. Fast forward a year, and the Onofrios have fostered 10 kittens for PAL and adopted two cats. The family is currently caring for four kittens who just need a little TLC and a relaxed, healthy start to life.

“It is a bittersweet moment when we see one of the kittens we fostered being adopted,” Onofrio said. “It has been a great experience for my kids.”

With regards to the squirrel picnic tables and the fundraiser they inspired, the larger life lesson for his daughters is not lost on Onofrio.

“I think it was a great learning experience for my kids, that something as little as a squirrel picnic table could raise so much money,” said Onofrio. “And since we are all homeschooling, it was fun to bring shop class back!”

Lindsay Perry is the marketing coordinator for Palmetto Animal League.