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North Syracuse boy gives up birthday presents in favor of donations to local animal shelters

Parker Vavra, 8, visits with a kitty in the CNY SPCA’s cat room. Parker asked his family and friends to give donations to local animal shelters instead of giving him birthday presents this year.

Parker Vavra, 8, visits with a kitty in the CNY SPCA’s cat room. Parker asked his family and friends to give donations to local animal shelters instead of giving him birthday presents this year.

— Parker Vavra has always been an animal lover.

“He’s obsessed with animals,” said mom Bobbie Jo Vavra. “He’s been saying he wants to be a doggie doctor when he grows up. And he’s stuck with it. He’s always been that way.”

In addition to three boys, the family has a dog, two fish and a guinea pig in their village of North Syracuse home, plus they feed a stray cat.

“We can’t have any more,” Bobbie Jo said. “We’ll get kicked out of our house.”

But Parker, whom his mother said is “very sensitive to others’ feelings, people or animal,” is always looking for ways to help his pet cause.

Recently, Parker’s school had the children complete a theme called “Helping Hands, Healthy Hearts,” in which students learned that volunteering had the power to make people healthier. Students were asked to donate their time to a worthy organization as part of the program. Naturally, Parker wanted to work with a local shelter.

“Unfortunately, all of the ones I looked at, you had to be 10 to 14,” Bobbie Jo said. “Naturally, he was disappointed.”

But not for long. Parker thought about his approaching birthday and decided he didn’t want traditional presents like video games or toys; instead, he asked his family to donate any money they would spend to the CNY SPCA or the Humane Association of Central New York.

“He said, ‘They’ll be happier, and that will make them healthier, so they’ll live longer,’” his mother recalled. “It just skyrocketed from there.”

Parker was so thrilled with the process that he decided to do the same for his birthday party on Dec. 1. On his invitations, he wrote a message, asking guests who wished to participate to provide donations to area shelters in lieu of gifts.

That’s where the trouble began.

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