SALISBURY – The Delmarva Zoological Society is gearing up for another successful fundraising season as public and private school students across four counties on the lower Eastern Shore received cans this week for the annual Just Zoo It! campaign.
With the help of Pepsi Bottling Ventures and staff at Lower Shore Enterprises, elementary school kids in Wicomico and Dorchester counties and portions of Worcester and Somerset counties will get 15,000 labeled cans to collect change while trick-or-treating.
Money raised will go to maintaining and revitalizing the free, accredited Salisbury Zoo, one of only a handful in the nation.
“Because we don’t charge, we sometimes ask for support from the community,” Event and Marketing Coordinator Cathy Bassett said.
The idea to involve kids in the zoo’s fundraising process came about at the end of its capital campaign.
“We were out raising money from large donors, and there was an idea to get kids involved,” Bassett said. “It helped put the capital campaign over the top.”
In the past five years, the student fundraiser has gathered more than $150,000 in nickels, dimes and quarters. Employees at First Shore Federal then count the change by class.
One private and public school class with the most money raised will then be invited to a VIP field trip to the zoo in the spring, where they will get the chance to meet the zookeepers, have a pizza party and take home T-shirts and stuffed animals.
“It is a complete surprise,” Bassett said. “A ‘Prize Patrol’ comes into the classroom with party poppers and lets the class know they won. We pay for the entire thing.”
While at the zoo, students will get the opportunity to go inside Chaska’s bear exhibit and learn about her care and nutrition.
“It’s really a memorable and exciting day for them,” Bassett said. “It is teaching them that it doesn’t take much effort to give back. The zoo is tangible and they can be a part of it.”
This week, the Just Zoo It! mascot made his rounds throughout schools on the lower Eastern Shore as students received their cans, which will be recollected after Halloween.
Friends and family are also encouraged to support their student’s class through the Delmarva Zoological Society website, where they can make online donations.
“I find it hard to believe that there is any change left on Delmarva after years of this campaign,” Bassett joked. “But we still manage to collect coins each year.”
With the help of local sponsors and roughly thirty schools, the Delmarva Zoological Society, a non-profit organization, will be able to provide the zoo its continued financial support.
“We’ve been blessed,” Bassett said. “It couldn’t be possible without the partnership of the schools. They recognize and appreciate what the zoo offers. I’ve been in classrooms in every school, and those kids react so well. Our zoo is free, and that is a rare resource in a community of our size.”
For additional information or to participate in the fundraiser, call 410-742-3977 or visit the Delmarva Zoological Society website at www.renewthezoo.com.