Sea turtles have always been her favorite animal.
Their life in the ocean, beauty and even their awkwardness put them at the top of the animal kingdom for high school senior Reannah.
So when Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center® founder Chester Moore overheard a conversation at Texas Children’s Hospital about this young lady wanting to meet a sea turtle, he went into action.
One of the organization’s outreaches is called Wild Wishes and it grants exotic animal encounters to children with critical illness or loss of parent or sibling. In the past, Moody Gardens in Galveston, TX had granted penguin encounters to children in the program.
He knew they had a Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle named “Chloe” so he contacted the facility to see what was possible.
On April 29, Reannah got to meet this special turtle in a behind the scenes setting, almost getting to hand it food via a special device. Chloe was a tad too shy for that but swam up and gave Reannah a close look that put a Texas-sized smile on her face.
She also got to do an encounter with giant river otters which included feeding the endangered mustelids rainbow trout and posing for a kiss photo. On top of that she got to go to go behind the scenes at the Caribbean aquarium and feed the fish.
The smiles got even bigger as Reannah realized she was not only feeding tarpon, Atlantic spadefish and jack crevalle but also sharks.
“This is awesome!,” she said.
“I can’t thank Moody Gardens enough for rolling out the red carpet for a very sweet and caring young girl. Everyone from the PR department to the animal care crew were gracious and gave not only their time but love. I’ll never forget that,” Moore said.
And he will never forget Reannah’s desire to meet sea turtles.
“The Lord had really been working on me about getting deeper into wildlife conservation with our program. I have been involved with endangered wildlife my entire professional life at many levels but not until we met this young lady did I put the dots together how Wild Wishes would connect to conservation.”
Each young person coming through the program will have an opportunity to choose from a list of endangered species they would like to help. Moore and his team have vetted numerous organizations who work with them and they will make a small donation in the child’s name to that cause.
“A few months ago I was speaking with legendary marine artist and conservationist Dr. Guy Harvey and he said that if everyone would just do a little, then a lot would be accomplished. With that said, I find it amazing that Reannah wanted to help the ocean and we will be making a small donation in her name to the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation,” Moore said.
Who better to help wildlife facing immense challenges than children facing challenges themselves?
“I can’t tell you how impactful learning of Reannah’s desire to meet a sea turtle was and then meeting her and seeing how much she really does care about animals and the ocean. Moving forward many endangered animals will be helped because this young lady wanted to get close to sea turtles. She inspired us,” Moore said.
Not only will children in the program on top of their wish encounter get a donation to an endangered species cause in their name but they will also have an opportunity to be part of a special mentoring program.
“The young people who come through Wild Wishes will have a chance to become our conservation ambassadors,” Moore said.
That means they will have the chance to get hands-on training with animal ambassadors from Kingdom Zoo Wildlife Center®, learn wildlife photography, go through an endangered species information course and appear at events with animals to help raise awareness to endangered species conservation.
“As far as we know this has never been done. We’re very excited and inspired. We love the Lord, children and wildlife and this is a way to bring it altogether,” said Lisa Moore who will be working heavily on the photography part of the mentoring program.
Reannah’s encounter was the 60th wish the program has granted and while doing a Bible study recently, Moore noticed something unique about the number 60.
Moore said Hebrew numbers have meanings beyond their numerical value and the meaning for 60 in that ancient language is “to support”.
“We will not only continue supporting children facing challenges through Wild Wishes but also help those children support endangered wildlife. I think it’s a match made in Heaven.”