SAN MATEO — The campaign to rebuild Coyote Point Museum's endowment has a dynamic new fundraising team.

The four-person group, headed by Hillsborough resident Alexa Stefanko, will hold a silent auction and fair at the museum Saturday, with the goal of generating $10,000.

As a bonus, the enterprising crew will receive credit for community service at Crocker Middle School in Hillsborough, where its members are enrolled in the sixth grade.

It's not as if they need the credit. Stefanko herself has accumulated about 500 community-service hours this year, 50 times the minimum requirement of 10 hours.

Stefanko, 12, hatched the idea for the fundraiser last year after learning that the museum was sinking under approximately $750,000 in debt and threatened with closure. (The museum later was rescued by a private donation campaign.)

After approaching Carl Oosterman, the museum's director of education, Stefanko enlisted the help of friends Abigail Crispin, Elena Huang and Erin McGinnis.

Together, the friends have amassed 71 items to put up for auction, from day spa treatments to a trip to Disneyland. Saturday's event will also feature a range of children's activities, including a wildlife show and animal feedings.

The girls went about organizing their event so quietly that Crocker Principal Janet Chun didn't even hear about it until recently, when they asked for permission to hand out fliers around the school.

Chun called their efforts "extraordinary."

"It impresses me for two reasons," Chun said.


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"One, it's always our hope that kids develop a passion for something; and beyond that, at such a young age, to have a sense of altruism (and) to be thinking of the environment and the world."

Stefanko said she's loved animals "since she was born." Her affinity for nature developed further during nature hikes with her father and through the environmental activism of her mother.

"I've always had a connection to the environment and everyone who loves conserving it as much as I do," Stefanko said.

For Crispin, 11, a fondness for nature grew out of an artistic streak. Crispin enjoys sketching outdoors, where she admires the leaves and flowers. Her favorite place to draw is under a tree.

"That's where my best ideas come from," she said.

Huang, 12, said she finds nature soothing, no matter how hyperactive she's feeling.

"I especially enjoy how they teach us about the environment in a really subtle way," Huang said. "You know you're learning, but you don't really put up as much of a struggle with it as you do in the classroom, because it's fun."

The four girls will be joined by parents and 16 Crocker volunteers Saturday. Among the items up for bid: certificates to Great America amusement park and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, hotel stays and signed sports memorabilia, including a football signed by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Manny Lawson.

All the auction items were donated. Stefanko said she collected about 10 of them in one day while making her pitch up and down Burlingame Avenue. She even wrote a couple of grant proposals, though none was successful.

Oosterman said the most important aspect of the girls' experience is not how much money they raise but "learning a lesson in leadership and doing something for their community."

Stefanko said she isn't sure the group will reach its goal of $10,000 but hopes for a high turnout. The team saturated Crocker with an advertising blitz, which was aided by Stefanko's 9-year-old brother Nick.

Nick said he enjoyed helping his older sister by drawing and handing out posters, but "it's getting annoying, because we can't have play dates and stuff."

Saturday's auction and fair will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Regular admission fees will be charged.

In addition to a wildlife show featuring an owl and a snake, there will be a live fox feeding at 11:30 a.m. and a river otter feeding at 12:30 p.m.

Coyote Point Museum is located at 1651 Coyote Point Drive in San Mateo.

Staff writer Aaron Kinney can be reached at (650) 348-4302.