On Ariana Candelarina’s Christmas list, you can find items pretty typical of a 9-year-old girl. One item that stands out, however, concerns a cause bigger than herself.
“Animals need a Christmas, too,” said Candelarina, of Bridesburg, who since 2010 has been collecting donations for the Pennsylvania SPCA to help shelter animals during the holiday season, as well as all year round.
Bill Lorch, Candelarina’s grandfather, commends his granddaughter’s efforts at such a young age.
“When it comes to animals, she does whatever she can to help them,” Lorch said.
It all started when Candelarina was moved to tears upon watching a news segment about a robbery at the PSPCA.
“She wanted to help them, so we told her to save up her money so she could donate it,” said Lorch, who initially thought she forgot about it as time went on. He turned out to be quite mistaken.
Candelarina collected money she had, as well as money from family members. It began with a couple hundred dollars and some blankets. This year, Lorch’s living room is filled with boxes and bags of dog treats, toys, blankets and beds.
Although Candelarina keeps up her collections year round, all donations for the holidays will be delivered to the PSPCA on December 21.
Lorch created a Facebook event promoting Candelarina’s efforts, which has generated a positive response.
“Everyone’s been calling saying that they have stuff for us,” Lorch said. Donations can be dropped off at Bridesburg Pizza, 4766 Richmond St., as well as Lori’s Deli, 4790 Richmond St.
“It feels exciting to help the animals, Candelarina said. “It makes me really happy.”
There is no shortage of animals in Candelarina’s household. She’s got a Chihuahua and miniature Doberman pinscher mix, Luigi, a black cat named Princess Midnight, and two iguanas. Although Candelarina would like more pets, Lorch insists they have enough.
“You really want every dog you see,” said Lorch to his granddaughter.
“She may be spoiled,” Lorche said, “But when it comes to animals, she’s not selfish at all.”
Lorch said Candelarina’s efforts are especially enjoyable to him, because he views it as an opportunity to bond with his only granddaughter. He insists, though, that it is still primarily a one-woman operation.
“It’s our thing, just the two of us,” Lorch said.
The PSPCA said it is especially thankful for Candelarina’s donations. Linda Torelli, director of marketing and communications at the PSPCA, mentioned that while many children donate and volunteer once or twice, Candelarina’s continual involvement is something that sets her apart fro her peers.
“We rely on people like Ariana,” Torelli said. “Our organization survives on private donations and on the sole generosity of people in the community.”
Upon meeting Candelarina just a few weeks ago, Torelli was moved by her work. “To be 9 years old and doing this on a continual basis, this is particularly special,” Torelli said.
For those who cannot give financially to the organization, Torelli suggests that there are many other ways for people to get involved.
“We are always in need of gently used towels, bedding, and newspapers, which we use to line the crates and cages,” Torelli said. In addition, busy toys, food and treats are always in great demand for the over 400 animals that are housed at the shelter.
Candelarina has high hopes for the future of her campaign to ensure that all animals have a warm, safe place to reside for the holidays.
“I would like to get up into the thousands,” Candelarina said. Her ultimate long-term goal, however, is to own her own farm.
“That way I can have all the animals I want,” she said with enthusiasm. ••