'He's got a great heart': Glenbrook North senior raises thousands for animal sanctuary
The Stardust Animal Sanctuary does not currently have a rabbit among the 55 domesticated animals under its care.
It does have the equivalent of an Energizer Bunny among its supporters.
Joey Zucker, a senior at Glenbrook North, keeps on giving and giving to the sanctuary in Richmond, near the Wisconsin border.
Nearly $7,000 worth of giving.
Spurred by early success and gratification in a fundraising project to fulfill the community service requirement for admission into the National Honor Society -- Joey sets up personalized signs in people's yards for birthdays, graduations and the like for $25 a pop -- he's kept going and going.
Stardust Animal Sanctuary, founded in 2004 by Laurie Kay and Leslie SanFilippo, cares for animals that are unable to be adopted due to medical or behavioral conditions.
After visiting the facility on the recommendation of a family friend, he started his fundraiser in late February.
"Originally I decided to end it in June because that's when school ended, but I liked it so much I decided to keep doing it until December," said Zucker, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy as a result of suffering a stroke while in utero.
As in his past charitable experience, an affinity for the residents of Stardust Animal Sanctuary informs his altruism. For his bar mitzvah project in 2017 Zucker organized a charity 5-kilometer run for Fighting For Families, a Deerfield nonprofit established to support families of children born with cerebral palsy.
His current benefactor obviously is a horse of a different color.
"He's just a beautiful person, and he has a ripple effect on people and animals," said Kay, a paramedic when she's not tending to the sanctuary.
Kay and SanFilippo started with nine dogs, six horses and three cats. Stardust is now at full capacity hosting animals such as Serafina the pig, whose injuries, ironically, spared a bad end.
"He got lucky and he fell off a truck," Joey said with circuital logic.
"I really like it," he said. "I like it because instead of just helping out one particular family (of a person who) has cerebral palsy, I raised money for certain animals with other disabilities."
In late summer the sanctuary presented him with its first Outstanding Achievement volunteer award. Kay said his donations could be targeted to any number of areas -- to replace brittle fencing, to help pay utilities, to defray costs of medical care.
"I was not expecting it. It was going on for so long," Joey said of receiving the award.
Despite the award, despite being interviewed by Fox News, Joey is unaffected, said Mileen Zucker, his mother. She chauffeurs Joey on his early morning signposting route before he goes off to Glenbrook North. At night she takes him back out again to pick up the signs.
"He doesn't think it's special. He just thinks he's doing what he's doing, but I don't think he realizes the impact he has on the animals and on other people," she said.
"He may not think he's making a difference, but he's absolutely making a difference."
High expectations are the norm in the competitive North Shore. Mileen is proud of what her high school senior cannot adequately state on a college application.
"He's got a great heart," she said.