Most students do not utilize their time at recess to work, but Alexa Kopack and her friends are a rare exception at Lee Road Elementary School in Wantagh.
Last year, Kopack and a group of third grade classmates - Emily Marrazzo, Giana Speranza, Sabrina Kelly, Shannon O'Leary, Samantha Jennings, Isabel Galella, Taylor Muckle, Jennifer and Jessica Thiem, Isabella Mazzeo, and Megan Loughnane - were trying to keep busy during their playground break.
The Levittown School District students then started writing "The Nutcracker" as a summertime play that quickly developed into a full blown production that was staged to assist a local pet welfare organization.
"They are a very motivated, outgoing group of girls," said Alexa's mother, Joanne Kopack. "The art teacher, Mrs. Davidson, allowed them to work on scenery during rainy or hot days. They practiced so much and were so excited about it that Isabel's mom allowed them to rehearse at her house."
After seeing the girls' determination, parents got involved by designing invites and programs, creating a board of head shots, donating snacks and setting up the stage.
"All of the parents made sure their daughters came to rehearsals," Ms. Kopack said. "It was so nice to see the parents help this to happen. It really was a joint effort and amazing teamwork."
Once the production was in full swing just before starting the fourth grade, Alexa knew she wanted all their hard work to benefit a good cause. Proceeds from ticket sales were donated to Bideawee, a not-for-profit organization that offers pet adoption centers and therapy services for animals throughout Long Island and New York City.
Bideawee formerly operated an animal shelter on 3300 Beltagh Ave. in Wantagh, which was taken over by Last Hope Animal Rescue last year. Bideawee still maintains a presence in the building, however, by offering grief counseling as well as pet therapy.
"We thought it would be nice to help hurt or sick animals or animals that needed to be adopted," Alexa Kopack explained.
"It was great working together with all of my friends," she continued. "It was so much fun making up parts of the play and seeing everyone in costume. Maybe next time we can donate to the poor, the cancer society or another good cause. I really love to help people and so do my friends."