The zebra may not bite, but the students definitely will!
I (faculty advisor: Sarah Manning) headed out early Saturday morning with Interact Club members Jessica Johnson, Sandra Garcia, David Rivera, Dalton Sullivan, and Ross Younkman to volunteer at HollyWild Animal Park in Wellford, SC. HollyWild is a non-profit wildlife center, "committed to providing an interactive and enlightening experience for visitors, [while working to] continually improve the lives of animals in an enriching and respectful environment" (Source). All the animals housed at HollyWild were born in captivity, but many of them have some sort of claim to fame on the big screen (hence the park's name). Most have been featured in commercials, music videos, and there are even a few silver screen stars among them.
The students were excited to be involved any way they could, and found themselves doing many unexpected, but fun jobs during their time serving. The first job they took part in was tearing up donated loaves of old bread that are sold to guests when heading out on the Safari Bus Ride. The bread would later be hand-fed by guests to cattle, deer, ponies, bison, watusi, zebra, donkeys, water buffalo, emu, and a variety of other park animals. It was crazy the amount of bread there was to tear up, but the students filled over three troughs full!
On the day we visited, the park was also having a special "Owl" event, celebrating winged predators of the night. You can imagine the students' surprise when they were asked to blow up as many owl balloons as they could. The balloons were to then be given out to children arriving at the park. Who knew there was such strategy to blowing up owl balloons? The students made it quite a humorous experience for everyone!
After that, we then helped park staff by restocking, organizing, sweeping, mopping, dusting, and more in the park gift shop and birthday party space. The students worked hard to move all sorts of boxes and furniture as directed throughout the building. The staff were exceedingly kind and grateful to the students for their hard labor. It was a dirty job, but we all laughed through it. The students were especially satisfied after seeing their progress. Wishing we had taken a before/after picture, there was no doubt in our minds that it was a job well done.
The staff then treated the students to watching a live owl presentation, followed by ride on the safari bus to feed the animals. The students loved getting up close and personal with the Park's rare albino American Bison named Lakota. Following the safari ride, we were given a guided tour explaining the history behind the park's white Bengal Tiger, Diamond. After visiting Diamond we saw the animal nursery. Currently, found in the park's nursery is a baby camel named Wednesday, a young antelope, gazelle, and lamb. We watched them all romping and running around their enclosure with joy. Talk about cute!
It was a really unique experience helping both the animals and staff at HollyWild. I'm proud of the kids for giving up time during their long three day weekend to serve those around them. We look forward to returning to volunteer again soon!