SELMA -- Animals in the Fresno SPCA had hope on their side Monday -- as in 11-year-old Hope Graef, who turned her birthday party into a shelter fundraiser.
Hope gave up presents and instead asked family and friends to donate money to help save dogs and cats from being euthanized. Seeing animals on television in need of homes touched her.
"I love animals, and seeing the commercials with the sad music, I literally have to cover my eyes," she said. "I want to cry."
Hope's party raised about $700 for the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Fresno.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Brenda Mitchell, an SPCA educator, said children occasionally will donate their birthday money and proceeds from yard sales or lemonade stands, but Hope's gesture was unusual.
"We don't see a lot of kids who go to this extreme," said Mitchell, who attended Hope's party with Chico, a basenji doxie that became an entertainment hit with the children.
"She definitely went above and beyond."
Hope told her mother, Heather Graef, about her fundraiser idea in the fall. The notion wasn't a surprise.
"She's always had a love of animals since a very young age," her mother said.
The party for Hope, a fifth-grader at Reagan Elementary School in Clovis, was held at her mother's home in Selma.
The party drew about 20 children and 30 adults. Hope's birthday was Feb. 2, but the fundraiser was Monday so her friends, their parents and Mitchell could attend.
Friend Desiree Vang, 11, said she thought Hope was doing the right thing giving up presents to help animals.
"She likes animals a lot," Desiree said.
"She's always talking about them at school."
Hope, who wants to be a veterinarian, has seven animals -- three dogs, two hamsters and two lizards.
The fundraiser included a raffle of gift baskets and slices of pizza and soda that sold for $1 each.
"Some of my friends thought I was crazy because I was passing up all my birthday gifts," Hope said.
"My relatives said that it was a good cause, and they're happy I'm doing this."