Conway Grammar School students ‘pay it forward’ with Tom Ricardi fundraiser

  • Conway Grammar School students are making pinch pots and potholders as a fundraiser for Tom Ricardi. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Tom Ricardi surveys some of the damage to his raptor enclosures in Conway in February. A peregrine falcon survived in the crushed cage at right. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/17/2023 12:03:22 PM

CONWAY — In an early act of community service, several Conway Grammar School classes are preparing fundraisers to help local raptor rehabilitator Tom Ricardi offset repair costs at his rehabilitation center.

Kindergarten, first grade and third grade students are making calendars, bookmarks, pinch pots and potholders to raise money for repair costs resulting from a fallen pine tree that caused significant damage to Ricardi’s bird enclosures and also caused the deaths of a saw-whet owl and two great horned owls.

“This is a great way for the kids to pay it forward and get involved in some community-service learning,” said kindergarten teacher Jeremy Brunaccioni. “Because it’s local and it’s somebody they know, I think it makes it all the more meaningful and tangible for them.”

An initial estimate for tree removal was set at $10,000 and a GoFundMe page was created to help Ricardi pay for the damages. The vast majority of facility costs, including general repairs and food for the birds, come out of Ricardi’s pocket.

First grade teacher Jennifer Wheeler said her students came into school shortly after the storm and were talking about the damages to Ricardi’s enclosures because Ricardi visits the school and other community events to share his birds with residents.

“They thought about a lot of things they can do, but we’ve been weaving these potholders in the morning as a way to build fine motor skills, and in the past I’ve made some pinch pots,” Wheeler said. “We talked about making those two things and selling them, and we could raise money for Tom.”

Brunaccioni’s class will be making calendars, Wheeler’s class is making the pinch pots and potholders and third grade teacher McKenzie Robinson’s class will be making the bookmarks.

Wheeler said participating in a fundraiser like this provides valuable life lessons, while also allowing the kids to better integrate themselves in the community.

“Thinking about the wider community is really important for them,” Wheeler said, “and it’s such a powerful lesson for children to give something without expecting something in return.”

Reflecting on Ricardi’s legacy and the work he’s done at Conway Grammar School and around Franklin County, Brunaccioni said Ricardi is a “tremendous resource.”

“He’s done so much, if you look at the environmental awareness that he’s raised over the years, providing both education and help for the birds,” Brunaccioni said. “He’s been a tremendous resource for us locally, but I think it goes beyond the state.”

Brunaccioni said the bookmarks and calendars — which are birds-of-prey themed — will be available at World Eye Bookshop in Greenfield within the next week or two. As for the potholders and pinch pots, Wheeler said the plan is to sell them to families at the All-School Meeting on March 31.

Open Space Committee event

Happening alongside the school’s fundraising efforts is “Outlook for Birds of Prey,” an informational event organized by the Open Space Committee that will be held at Conway Town Hall, 5 Academy Hill Road, on Sunday, March 19, at 3 p.m.

Ricardi will give attendees an update on the birds at his rehabilitation center, as well as talk about the future of his work and what people can do to help.

Those interested in donating to Ricardi and the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center can send a check or money order to the Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center, P.O. Box 26, Conway, MA 01341. The facility is a nonprofit and contributions are tax-deductible.

Additionally, an online GoFundMe page is available at

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


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