SEASIDE HEIGHTS - An appearance by pint-sized MTV reality star Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi brought in more than $6,000 Sunday afternoon for several Ocean County animal shelters.
Hundreds of people lined up Sunday afternoon outside the Seaside Heights Community Center, where they paid $10 to receive an autograph from Polizzi. Proceeds from the event will be distributed by the organization Donations of Love among local animal shelters, including Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey Township.
Seaside Heights, the borough that helped make Polizzi famous, is the backdrop for the first and third seasons of the show "Jersey Shore."
Adults and children brought photos of Snooki, T-shirts and other memorabilia for Polizzi to sign. Providing security was the same police department that arrested Polizzi in July and charged her with disorderly conduct.
Polizzi's attorney, Ray Raya, accompanied her to the fundraising event and said that technically it was not part of her community service. Following her arrest Polizzi was fined $500 and sentenced to one day of community service for violating a local ordinance on public behavior.
Polizzi, 22, spent the morning cleaning the Seaside Heights Police Department and doing clerical work before signing autographs at the Community Center. She covered her face Sunday as she was escorted into the center by her entourage.
"I drove up here with her, and I'll tell you, by nature she's a very shy person," Raya said in the parking lot outside the event. "The crowds for her can be daunting and a little overwhelming."
Raya spoke of Polizzi's love of animals and said she was in school studying to become a veterinary technician before she became a cable-channel celebrity. Polizzi said she has a Pomeranian named Gia.
"She's actually going back to school to finish her work to become a vet tech. Her plan is she's going to get that license," Raya said.
For now, Polizzi's most recent contact with animals has been the community service she completed at Popcorn Park Zoo last month.
"I worked there with her, and she actually scrubbed blood from raw meat out of a cougar cage. She had a staring contest with a lioness and she fed the camel named Princess a graham cracker she put in her mouth and the camel took it out," Raya said.
Raya said he had to "restrain" his client from adopting animals at the shelter.
The fans who attended the event Sunday were not interested in Polizzi's brush with law enforcement. Instead, they were star struck.
"It was like O-M-G (Oh my God)," said 9-year-old Victoria Hopkins, of Toms River.
Although Victoria's mother, Jill, said her daughter is not permitted to watch "Jersey Shore" regularly, the girl bared an uncanny resemble to Polizzi. Victoria's Ed Hardy baseball cap was pulled sideways, and her long, dark hair framed her face and dark sunglasses.
"People say I look like her all the time. I was about to pass out in there," Victoria said after meeting Polizzi.
"She's dressing up as Snooki for Halloween," Jill Hopkins said.
Theresa Gitto, 20, of Toms River, wore a "Jersey Shore" T-shirt, and her hair was styled in Polizzi's signature pouf. Gitto's 18-month-old daughter, Gabriella Stampfeo, also wore the pouf.
"It requires a lot of hairspray. She's really sweet, and she liked my hair and my daughter's hair," Gitto said.
As the line dwindled and 4 p.m. approached, Polizzi's entourage allowed the press to enter the building. Polizzi sat behind a small table signing autographs and posing for photos with fans. Next to her was a jar of dill pickles - one of her favorite snacks.
"They were from a fan," she shouted.
But when it came time for Polizzi to fill out a giant check to present to Donations of Love, she had a little trouble.
"I've never wrote a check before," she said as fundraiser organizers walked her through the check-writing process and she filled in the blanks with a permanent marker.
"This is my first check everybody!" she shouted as she held the check up for a photo.
Polizzi said she also donated another $1,000 to Popcorn Park Zoo. John Bergman, director of the zoo, said that while she completed her community service there, he could see she loved animals.
Joanne LaCicero, director of Donations of Love, said the donations will be split among Popcorn Park, the Toms River Animal Facility and the Seaside Heights Spay and Neuter Program.
"I think it's fantastic she'd give her time above and beyond what she owed," LaCicero said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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