MANATEE COUNTY — Every year, wildlife rehabilitator Justin Matthews rescues at least one fledgling red-shouldered hawk, but none has been quite so special as his two newest birds.
Whenever Matthews feeds the hawks, he can’t help but think of the boys for whom they are named — Lakewood Ranch residents Ethan and Owen Ingham.
Rather than spending their Saturday afternoon watching television or playing with friends, the boys spent a day in their front yard raising money for Matthews Wildlife Rescue.
“They met me at a tour at Mixon’s (Fruit Farms) and wanted to help the animals,” Matthews said. “These kids didn’t have to do that.”
Ethan met Matthews when his second grade class at Wakeland Elementary School visited the Justin Matthews Wildlife Rescue Center at Mixon Fruit Farms a few weeks ago.
When Ethan’s mom, Gwyn, picked him up from school that day, the 8-year-old Summerfield resident climbed into the car pledging to raise money for the animals. And soon, Ethan and his younger brother, Owen, were planning their fundraiser.
“The boys — they really did this,” Gwyn Ingham said. “It was really neat. They made four posters and they hung them out in the front of our house and sat outside from 11 (a.m.) to 2 (p.m.) on a Saturday. Neighbors driving by were so receptive.”
The boys had done their research, easily answering questions thrown their way about Matthews’ rescue efforts. And when they’d finished, they’d raised $128.
Matthews got a call about the April 25 fundraiser and two days later, the Ingham children stopped by Mixon’s, proudly delivering the money in a Tupperware container.
“I asked the kids how they wanted me to spend the money, and they wanted me to buy toys for the raccoon, Bandit, and litter for the opossum (Fancy),” Matthews said. “Now Bandit has more toys than he knows what to do with.”
Matthews said during his eight years running his rescue, he has never had children do a fundraiser like that on his behalf.
Because the two fledgling hawks Matthews is raising are both male, it seemed fitting to name them in honor of Ethan and Owen.
“This took some time (for them) to do all this,” he said. “It really touched me.”
The hawks now are both about 5 weeks old, and Matthews expects them to leave their nest in his front yard in about another week.
Because Matthews provides their food, the fledglings will stay close by, allowing Matthews to teach them to hunt live prey before they fly off in to the wild in about three months.
For information on Matthews Wildlife Rescue, call Matthews at 812-1771.
Contact Pam McTeer at email@example.com.
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