Seniors discover CALM
Smiles were on everyone’s face as 3 year-old Madi Gilbert petted a rosy boa for the first time at docent Marilyn Radon’s gentle urging.
“We did not know about that until we got here, but I’m all for it,” Pat said. “We like to take our kids on excursions once a year. It’s a great experience for them. With CALM reducing the price for seniors it really helps out those of us on fixed incomes.”
Things had been a little bit quiet for CALM volunteer docent Marilyn Radon up to that point. She was getting ready for her 10 a.m. wildlife presentation and had retrieved a rosy boa snake from its enclosure to display in the Al Robbins Reptile House. That’s when Joe McCoy, who had also been unaware of the discount for seniors, wandered by with his three year-old, twin grandchildren Madi and Jaxon. As Madi cautiously, but confidently, walked over to pet the snake, Jaxon looked on curiously from a safe distance. Radon went on to explain to the two curious children that there are both coastal and desert rosy boas, and that boas are constrictors who kill their prey by squeezing not poisoning.
“I’ll tell you what, CALM will get a lot more grandpas out here with their grandkids with this discount, cause it’s tough to find a good bargain in this tough economy,” McCoy said.
“We began Senior Discovery Day last year offering a 50 percent admission discount and 10 percent off merchandise purchased in the gift shop, as a way to get our seniors out on a day that is generally quieter for them.” said Zoo Manager Lana Fain. “And everyone that has taken advantage of the day has been very appreciative of the discount and the wildlife presentation.”
Volunteer docents, such as Radon, who offer their time for free, are one reason the zoo is able to extend the discounts. Radon is a paid up CALM member and has been a docent since 2001.
“I do it because it’s nice to have a zoo,” Radon said. “It makes you think about taking care of the animals and plants that are important parts of the cycle of life.”
Those with the same concerns and love of animals can do what Radon has. CALM is currently offering its Docent Program, an eight week training session that began on Oct. 6 and ends Dec 1. Those that did not get in for this session can contact CALM at (661) 872-2256 about the next Docent Program. CALM docents learn in a classroom setting to help educate school children and visitors about California wildlife and their habitats. They are also trained to handle CALM’s ambassador animals. After training, docents are required to devote at least four hours per month for two years in service to CALM.
Fain has high praise for the docents and those who volunteer their time to keep CALM affordable for everyone.
“The docents are invaluable,” Fain said. “There is no way you can put a price tag on the knowledge they share with seniors, kids — all visitors. Many of them start out as volunteers — helping animal keepers clean and feed, running games at events, maintaining grounds, helping in the gift shop, in the set up for HolidayLights (the annual December fund-raiser featuring lighted displays) or running the train on the weekends. We could not do it without volunteers, who in the last three months donated 1,300 hours of service to CALM.”
Madi and Jaxon never realized Radon was a volunteer docent, as her quiet demeanor and friendly disposition led the kids to bravely approach the rosy boa. The Gilbert’s seven great grandchildren had fun learning from Radon as she deftly handled the snake without a trace of apprehension. They did not know she volunteers. Les and Pat Gilbert and Joe McCoy? They got in for half price. And even if they suspected Radon was a volunteer, it did not matter.
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