A fourth grade class at The Sanibel School received an extraordinary gift from one of their classmates - a gift that connected them to an animal across the globe.
"The more you physically give, the more mentally you give of your heart," Johnny Clark said when asked about the special gift his class received.
After Sophie Schroy's mother discovered that palm oil is used in small chocolate eggs, they decided to "adopt" Gito, a young orangutan at the International Animal Rescue in Borneo instead of gifting chocolate for the Easter holiday. The gift was given because they wanted to help the population after learning that the use of palm oil for the chocolates results in habitat loss for the orangutans.
The Sanibel School fourth grade class with their teacher Julie Wappes. The class received a gift, the adoption of an orangutan, from their fellow student before Spring Break began last week.
"Why can't we climb the trees to get the coco beans," Sean Sawicki asked. "We can save the trees and animals."
When the class learned how chocolate was produced, many admitted they had tried to cut back on their consumption of the tasty treats to help save the orangutans.
Julia Lemmon said she eats a lot of chocolate and never really thought about how it could affect animals.
"It's important to preserve and keep them safe," she said of the animals.
The adoption was a gift to Julie Wappes fourth grade class last week.
"It's important that we help orangutans because hundreds die each year," Lily Solomon said. "They will go extinct and we won't be able to see them and we will forget about them."
Sophie admitted Friday afternoon that she never thought adopting an orangutan for her fellow classmates would turn into such "a big deal."
"I think it's amazing to adopt an animal from the other side of the world," Preston Farhat said.
Tony Underwood agreed that the gift was special because adopting an orangutan is not an every day occurrence.
"Protecting wildlife will make the world a better place," he said.
Wappes said her students now have global connection, which is "really cool." She said it was pretty special that their conservation efforts now expanded across the world.
"It's the most amazing thing that ever happened," Kayce Nette said about her class raising awareness from across the world of the harms of using palm oil.
Many of the fourth graders agreed that adopting an orangutan and understanding the harms of the use of palm oil, and the loss of habitat for the animal is an important message to share with others.
"You don't have to be an adult to do things," Kate Doster said.
Olympia DeCosta said it's important to show everyone how much they care about everyone.
Gito was found by the International Animal Rescue Team in West Borneo in a urine soaked cardboard box looking "almost mummified." According to his fact sheet, the orangutan, who was between three and four months old when rescued, was dumped in the sun and left to die once its owner was at a loss of what to do with a sick orangutan.
Gito had a highly contagious skin condition leaving him with barely any hair and gray, flaking skin. When the young orangutan was kept as a pet for two months, he was fed condensed milk, which left him severely malnourished and dehydrated.
Treatment began, coconut oil massaged into his skin several times a day, which transformed the young orangutan within a week.
Emily Kremenchuker said it felt good that her class was able to protect an orangutan because a lot of them are dying.
"It's amazing one class project can change one animals life," Lily Lockard said.
The class received a sponsorship certificate from the International Animal Rescue for sponsoring Gito "and helping us provide him with the care he deserves," which was signed by Chief Executive Alan Knight. They have had the opportunity to view videos of Gito playing at preschool with other baby orangutans at the centre.
Wappes said they will continue to follow him online and watch his progress.