Sea World San Antonio—The kids were a bit starstruck. Actually I think the adult chaperones were as well.
As “Jungle” Jack Hanna, iconic television wildlife host and conservationist walked into the Nautilus Amphitheater, he greeted his fans warmly.
“I’m so glad to see you here. Thank you for coming to Sea World today,” Hanna said.
The kids were part of the Wild Wishes program operated by our Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center®. Wild Wishes grants exotic animal encounters to children who have a terminal illness or have lost a parent or a sibling.
The kids that came along were either recipients of a wish or young people who have been trained to help grant wishes for other children.
Facilitated by Sea World San Antonio this special, private experience was a dream come true for 10-year-old wish kid Jaxon who told Hanna he wants to host his own wildlife television program one day.
“So you want to do wildlife TV?” Hanna asked.
“That would be cool sir,” Jaxon replied as his hero patted him on the back.
Having watched Hanna many times on syndicated television, Jaxon has visions of traveling the world and encountering the animals of his dreams.
Fourteen-year-old Lauren who has helped by chaperoning and showing animals to more than two dozens kids at wish events over the last four years was excited to hear Hanna tell them how to be better ambassadors for wildlife.
“Allowing kids to safely see wildlife in an amazing park like this or a modern zoo or at a facility like yours is important. You have to touch the heart to move the mind and I know you all will be great at that,” he said.
The kids were allowed to hold a baby red kangaroo in a pouch and get an up close look at a Geoffrey’s cat, a gorgeous and tiny spotted feline from South America.
After watching Hanna’s fun and highly educational program that included a beautiful cheetah, the kids were fired up about wildlife conservation and helping other kids that come into the wish program know they can help wildlife as well.
One of the wish kids, Madison Belden, is fighting cystic fibrosis but she is partnering with us to use her art to raise awareness to endangered species and raise funds to help various projects.
“Mr. Chester, I bet we can get more of these wish kids to do things like Madison is doing. It would be great to have kids who are facing challenges know they can be a part of helping wildlife that is also facing great challenges,” she said.
Those are wise words from an eighth grader and came after inspiration from one of the world’s top voices for wildlife in a park that has saved untold numbers of endangered sea turtles on the Texas coast.
Most recently they took in a baby endangered Cook’s Inlet beluga whale that was abandoned in the wild.
Wild Wishes came true because people cared for kids who care for wildlife.
It was a beautiful thing to see and it inspired us all to be better stewards of what the Lord put on this planet.
Chester Moore, Jr.