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2.03.06 Birthday girl gives Cummings Veterinary School a gift from the heart

by Donna Boynton, reprinted from Worcester Telegram & Gazette

A Framingham kindergarten student has spread some holiday cheer to some grateful veterinarians and their patients by recently donating more than $400 to the Tufts Wildlife Clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

Last Wednesday, Corina Kotidis, 6, presented the donation to Tufts. The doctors at the clinic were just wrapping up their holiday party when the young philanthropist and her older sister, Miranda, presented a pink box adorned with stickers of puppies, butterflies and various species of birds containing $430 she had collected.

Corina, a kindergarten student at Happy Hollow School in Framingham, turned 6 on Dec. 16, and had a birthday party at a local Build-A-Bear store Dec. 17. It was her wish that instead of gifts, the 20 friends and family members attending her birthday party make a donation to the wildlife clinic.

This is the second year that Corina has donated her birthday gifts to Tufts.

"I think it is wonderful in today's world when people are not just thinking about themselves, but are trying to help other people or animals in need," Dr. Mark Pokras, the director of the clinic, said. "We can definitely use Corina's donation to help animals in our clinic."

Corina's donation comes at a time of year when weather conditions can cause injury and illness to many types of animals. Dr. Pokras said the clinic tends many emaciated and dehydrated birds, particularly owls, hawks, geese and ducks.

Corina has followed in the footsteps of her big sister. Miranda, now 10, started donating her birthday presents to Tufts when she, too, was 6, and in the years since, has continued to donate her gifts to other charitable organizations such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

The sisters are inspired by their love of animals to support Tufts. "They absolutely adore animals," their mother, Dr. Nina Balodimos, said. The family has 19 different animals, including dogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, chinchillas and fish.

"I think it is good for them to learn altruism," said Dr. Balodimos, an obstetrician and gynecologist with the Southboro Medical Group. "Certainly the love of animals started it all, but I want them to learn what it means to give of themselves; community service is something I try to teach them."

The sisters not only give around the time of their birthdays. Dr. Balodimos said she tries to involve her daughters in different projects throughout the year, either as Girl Scouts or through other community service opportunities.

"I am very proud of them," said their mother.

She said she and her daughters attended Tufts' annual open house at the Grafton campus for many years. Dr. Balodimos added the family has brought injured wildlife - including a mallard duck and a woodchuck - to the wildlife clinic.