This 6-year-old raised a small fortune for Long Beach animal shelter

Long Beach resident Pete Toulios’ 6th birthday party was called off when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Too bad, because young Pete and his mom would have offered up some of the fuzziest party favors ever.

“We were planning on a rescue party—an adoption event at the house, but it didn’t happen,” said Hallie Jane Culpepper, Pete’s mother. Culpepper’s no novice at planning fantastical birthday parties with several cups of philanthropy baked into the birthday cake. She’s the chief conjurer of Aerial Butterflies, a Long Beach gig company that resembles a Cirque de Soleil sideshow—aerialists, fire eaters, magicians, fortune tellers. In April, the HI-lo posted an article about a curbside aerialist show that Culpepper produced for the neighborhood to celebrate her own birthday, literally curbing quarantine cabin fever for friends and neighbors.

VIDEO: Aerial Butterflies dazzle neighborhood with curbside cirque performance

Pete’s own birthday parties are also built around ideas of giving back.

“We both pick a theme,” Culpepper said. “The first year, it was recycling. Last year, he wanted a police party, and we raised $700 for the K-9 Officers Association.”

This year, it would be the shelter at Long Beach Animal Care Services. Culpepper said that it was a natural choice because they watch videos and look at other social media featuring the shelter and rescues.

“And because I like animals and I love them,” Pete further explained.

Maybe there wasn’t going to be a party, but there were going to be gifts, and not just for Pete. Culpepper set up a Facebook birthday fundraiser page through Partners of Parks, the supportive nonprofit for Long Beach Parks, Recreation and Marine, of which Animal Care Services is a bureau. By the time the fundraiser closed, Pete had raised $1,075 for the pets at the shelter.

“It was the most money he’s ever raised at a party,” Culpepper said.

Pete was wide-eyed as he talked about a sum that first-grade math can’t quite calculate.

“I don’t know how much that is, but it’s a lot! My pocket would explode!” he said.

Pete was gifted with a private tour of Long Beach Animal Care Services, which is still closed to the public, as a thank-you for his family’s fundraising.

small boy with white shirt and black shorts and mask stands before a white animal shelter truck.

Pete enjoyed his tour of Long Beach Animal Care Services. He inspected the animal care service officers’ vehicles … Photo courtesy of Long beach Animal Care Services.

young boy in black mask and shorts and white shirt sits doglike in a kennel in a truck.

… and got his empathy on for pets who ride in them … Photo courtesy of Long Beach Animal Care Services.

gray-and-white pit bull in a kennel, with young boy in a white shirt and black pants and mask standing in front.

… but his favorite part was meeting Charlie. “He’s a pit bull with dinosaur ears,” Pete said, by way of illustration. Photo courtesy of Long Beach Animal Care Services

a woman in a blue shirt and shorts and black mask stands with a little boy in white shirt and black mask and shorts next to a sign displaying the animal shelter. A woman in a black mask, dark slacks and a brightly printed pink blous stands on the other side. Green grass and a building are in the background.

From left, Hallie Jane Culpepper, her son Pete Toulios and shelter manager Staycee Dains. Photo courtesy of Long Beach Animal Care Services

“We were so happy to meet Pete and his mom and are grateful for Pete’s generous heart,” shelter manager Staycee Dains said. “Pete’s donation will ensure that animals receive life-saving medical care and a comfortable place to live at the shelter.”“And nice blankets and care for the animals,” Pete added.

Hopefully, the family will be able to host the animal adoption at Pete’s next birthday, since Pete is considering pets again for his 7th birthday. Apparently, he really, really loves animals.

“That could explain it,” Pete said, with a self-satisfied smirk.

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Kate Karp is the Pets Columnist for the Long Beach Post covering the world of animal activism, pet adoptions and lots of cute cats. She’s called Long Beach home since 1994 and has written for the Post for about 10 years. Kate’s day job is as a copyeditor, which she discovered a love for during her 30-year tenure as a teacher. She describes the job as “like taking the rough edges off a beautiful sculpture.”
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