8-year-old Central Texan helping endangered pandas for her birthday

Published: Aug. 20, 2022 at 7:46 PM CDT
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TROY, Texas (KWTX) - Bella Zapata’s grandparents gave her a book about pandas and ever since she’s been hooked and reading it over and over again.

Pandas are the soon-to-be 9-year-old’s favorite animal and she loves watching YouTube videos of baby ones.

For her birthday this year, instead of asking for presents, she’s turning her passion into action. Bella is collecting donations to go directly towards helping endangered giant pandas.

“I mean truly it warms my heart for even having the thought to want to do something like this,” Bella’s mom Kalyn Zapata said. “It’s the good that we want to see in the world.”

Bella is partnering with Dough Mama’s Bakery to collect donations through the month of August. The bakery is collecting coins and dollars in a tip jar on the counter.

“We’ve had tons of customers that have been throwing their money in there and we’ve been throwing our tips in there for them too,” Dough Mama’s Bakery owner Amber Rodriguez said. “Anything to support the youth of Troy.”

There’s still about a week and a half left in August, but Bella has already surpassed her original goal of raising $100. And she’s not done yet.

“Now we’re pushing for our new goal which is $250,” Kalyn said. “She’ll get a T-shirt, and a framed picture of the pandas she supports and a certificate with her name on it. Pins, jewels, rubber bracelets and things like that.”

All money raised will go directly to the nonprofit Pandas International to protect the world’s giant pandas. The organization helps feed the endangered species and plant more bamboo for them to eat.

The latest estimates from the World Wildlife Fund show there are only about 1,800 giant pandas left in the world.

Bella’s 10th birthday is Aug. 20 and she’ll be collecting donations through the rest of the month.

Pennies can be dropped off in the tip jar at Dough Mama’s Bakery in Troy. Bella and her mom are also accepting donations via Venmo @KZapata13, Cash App $KZapata13 and PayPal KZapata13@yahoo.com.