NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Hundreds of outdoor dining spaces have opened across the Lower Mainland during this pandemic, and now — thanks to the efforts of a 13-year-old boy in North Vancouver — squirrels are getting their own tiny pop-up patios.
Jody Butler says her son Liam got the idea during the spring, when COVID-19 shut down schools leaving kids with very little to do during the day.
“He had a copious amount of time to do nothing,” she says, noting that like many children his age, Liam was online a lot and got the idea of constructing mini picnic tables for squirrels from a YouTube video.
“So during that period of time of doing nothing, that’s when he watched the video, and that’s when he was buzzing around looking for pieces of wood, and nails, and screws and things to put it together.”
Butler’s partner is a carpenter, and helped Liam out with pieces of wood to practice on.
“After my partner helped him cut the little pieces and he started to assemble, he was like, ‘Hey, maybe I could make more than just one and then maybe I can donate the money,” Butler says.
“From there he tweaked the design and voilà, the picnic table was created.”
After a post in a neighbourhood Facebook group, orders started coming in, and Liam built 21 for locals who told his mom they wanted one. He also made one for his aunt and one for his grandmother for their birthdays, shipping them to Nova Scotia and Ontario.
“I guess they’re kind of national now,” Butler laughs.
The table can be placed on the ground, mounted on a tree, or perched on a fence. Once a little food is set out, the bushy-tailed critters appear within minutes.
“The squirrels, I guess they smell the nuts, they come and they use the little seats that boost them up to the nut height. They sit at it and it’s hilarious,” she says.
“I haven’t seen two on either end, that would be even better, I’d love for that picture to come in. But I highly doubt it, for now it’s just one squirrel, usually on one of the seats, and it’s pretty funny.”
Birds are also drawn to the tables, and occasionally they’ll pull up a perch while a squirrel is feasting which makes it look like a little lunch party.
Five dollars from the sale of each table — which comes with all the necessary hardware and a bag of ‘starter nuts’ goes to the Vancouver Orphan Rescue Kitten Association. Liam loves cats, and has one of his own named Fang.
When the organization posted about Liam on their Facebook page, 23 more orders came in.
Selling the tables has raised $220 so far.
Liam and his mom drop them off at a safe, social distance to people who live near them. People who live farther away have the option of picking it up.
For now, orders are placed by emailing Jody at email@example.com.
She’s very proud of her son, and this isn’t the first time he’s decided all on his own to fundraise. In 2016, he raised money to buy books for three Syrian refugee children in North Vancouver. In 2017, after Fort McMurray was devastated by fire, he and his mom sold dog biscuits and donated the proceeds to the SPCA to heLp animals that had been displaced.