Isn’t that just a hoot

Published 6:52 pm Friday, May 20, 2022

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Blooming Prairie elementary student inspired by Nature Center owl to give back


One Blooming Prairie Elementary student has proven she gives a hoot about owls.

Nine-year-old Charlie Penkava on Thursday afternoon donated the $300 she raised in a relatively short period of time to the Minnesota Raptor Center at the place where she was inspired to take on the task — the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

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It was here that Penkava met Guka, who came to the Nature Center after being injured a number of years ago and couldn’t be released into the wild.

Guka peers out of his enclosure. Guka was an inspiration for Charlie Penkava to raise and donate $300 to the Minnesota Raptor Center. Eric Johnson/

Penkava was with her class on a visit to the nature center, when the life-long fan of owls got to see Guka close up.

“She’s got a big heart and wanted to raise some money to help them recover,” said Penkava’s mom, Alissa.

Penkava was so enthusiastic about raising the money that she began the work of fundraising before some — including her family — really knew what was happening, pulling in $150 in one day.

“She makes us so proud,” Alissa said. “She did it on her own before she reviewed with us what she was doing. It’s good to see her take this on.”

On the initial visit to the Nature Center with her class, Penkava simply wanted to do something to provide a better life for Guka, who calls a spacious enclosure at the Nature Center home.

Charlie Penkava poses for a photo outside the enclosure of Guka, the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center’s education owl. Penkava’s love of owls and Guka was inspiration for her to raise and donate $300 to the Minnesota Raptor Center. Eric Johnson/

“Last summer I went to see the owl and noticed in the cage it only had a few things to climb on,” Penkava said. “I wanted to make it feel at home.”

Penkava fell in love with owls through her grandmother and her room at home is dedicated to the raptor, including several stuffed animals.

She found that while the task may have seemed daunting, she could always trust family.

“It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” Penkava beamed. “I started with my family and they donated a lot.”

Christine Snell, a volunteer transporter for the Minnesota Raptor Center, located in St. Paul, met the family at the Nature Center, jumping at the chance to meet the little girl with the big heart.

“Every little bit helps,” Snell said. “It was so heartwarming. We take in birds all year so it’s going to a really good cause.”