I’ve been visiting my zoo for a very long time, like for more than 35 years. It was an annual field trip in several school grades, and I visited sometimes with my family. I’ve met some interesting folks there in my time. Some of them, I have never forgotten. I once met a volunteer named Pete who made me feel like a superstar because he let me hold a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. He made me feel like would only trust mewith his bug, which is heady stuff when you’re a teenager who scarcely trusts herself. Fifteen years later, I became a zoo volunteer, as well. Imagine my delight to learn that Pete was still there. I got a chance to tell him how much his encounter meant to me. How lucky was I?
Some of my relationships go back even further. I met a guy there when I was a small child. He was old and wrinkled and had the kindest eyes. It’s pretty tough to make a lasting impression on a kindergartener. I barely remember both of my teachers’ names, but I remember him. I saw him again a few years later, greeting guests with the same enthusiasm. Never be surprised at where life takes you. Fast forward a few more years, and that guy is still there. I see him every, single day. He’s a little older, a little slower, but there he is. Would you like to meet him?
This is my pal, Al.
Al is an Aldabran tortoise, an animal found on the Aldabran atoll in the Indian ocean. He came to our zoo in 1974, when I was a mere toddler. No, seriously. I was three. Our best guess is that he came to us directly from the wild. In the last forty years, he hasn’t grown at all. He tips the scales at close to 600lbs, and around four feet long. His age is unknown, but given his massive size and the fact that he hasn’t grown appreciably in the last forty years, he is estimated to be somewhere between 135-150. Years old. Yeah, I know. I hope we have him for 100 more.
Who would ever have guessed when I first met Al the tortoise as a six-year-old that one day it would be my privilege to be his keeper? Not me. Life throws us little surprises sometimes, little gifts. And this is one.
There’s another little gift. This one is from me to one lucky winner. First Tennessee Foundation is giving away $5000 a day for 150 days. I would love for my zoo to win it. We raise about 85% of our operating budget, and $5K would be a nice little boost. Those of you who vote get a chance to win a fabulous gift package.
Here’s how to enter. Click the link here. It should open in a new window to the First Tennessee 150 days of giving page. Search for Knoxville
Zoological Park and vote for our zoo. The votes are cumulative, and you can vote on every device that you own, every single day until we win! You get an entry for every time you vote. You can vote for up to ten different organizations. And fair’s fair. If there are 10 things you want to vote for, and my zoo’s not one of them, I’ll still count your votes as an entry. I’m not out to buy votes, just to encourage you to help a worthwhile organization win some dough.
Remember I said that voting is cumulative? It means exactly that. The votes aren’t cleared each day. Your three (or ten!) votes today are added to your votes for yesterday. And the day before. And the day before.
Leave a note in the comments each day that you vote, and tell me how you voted (and how many times). You will also get one entry for sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media, one entry for each network on which you share. That’s a lot of entries! And what are the prizes? I’m so glad you asked!
Winner will receive:
1) One piece of original 8×10 art created by one of the critters in my care – either a snake or a tortoise. You choose the classification and the colors from the list of what I have, and I’ll choose the species. Nothing venomous.
2) One Mold-a-rama wax skull.
And if my zoo wins the $5K by Tuesday, May 27, I will add one additional prize. A box of salted caramel MOONPIES!
So get out there and get to voting! Tell your family, tell your friends, tell your enemies. Vote daily and help my zoo win this cash!
Giveaway ends May 27, 11:59pm EST or when the zoo wins the dough, whichever comes first. Comments will be closed when the giveaway ends, so get those entries listed in the comments before then!