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Arts for Animals

Wild animals and elementary school students now have something in common — the Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary.
This pairing is thanks to a group of six juniors from Professor Brandon Hollingshead’s Civic Engagement class who created a project called “Arts for Animals.”
According to group member James Futral, the project encouraged students from five area elementary schools — Gulf, San Carlos, Skyline, Spring Creek and Villas Elementary School — to submit artwork of the animals at Octagon. Each school submitted around 100 pieces, which were on display during the event March 29.
The group’s goal was to get as many students as possible out to the sanctuary to see their artwork and visit Octagon’s animals.
Group member Paul McDade said that the team chose Octagon specifically because it rescues animals from bad situations, such as abusive owners.
“We’re trying to teach children that there’s a wrong way to treat animals,” McDade said. “We felt that Octagon was a reallygooddemonstrationtoteachchildren. We could’ve done the event at the Humane Society, but how often do you get to see bears?”
The Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary is a nonprofit organization in Punta Gorda that has been in operation since the 1970s. According to the sanctuary’s brochure, Octagon is home to more than 200 animals, many of which were rescued from circuses, carnivals, zoos, abusive owners or owners who cannot take care of them. Octagon Director Laurie Caron and her 30 volunteers frequently rescue animals with Florida Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Futral’s mother, Cathy Futral, is an art teacher in Central Florida who drove two hours to get to the Arts for Animals event. She painted faces for the elementary school students in attendance.
“This is better than a zoo,” said Futral, “because it’s helping the animals. It’s not showing them off.”
Beth Pricco, an Octagon volunteer, would agree. “We’re only open to the public on the weekend,” Pricco said. “But volunteers are here every day to take care of the animals.”
Pricco said that the volunteers appreciate all the help they have received in the past from Florida Gulf Coast University students. “The kids at FGCU come out here and do things like clean-up projects, they make signs — one group even made a ramp for the goats to play on.”
The group members — Futral, McDade, Laila Parbus, Bianca Ares, Rachel Rosen and Lorrin Wasicko — would all like to thank the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center for donating paint and signs, and the Futral Feed Store for its donations.
Pricco considers the event a success. “We had a lot more traffic today,” she said.
People who would like to get involved with the Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary can learn more about it at

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