Organizations: Friends of the Wildlife Sanctuary and Wisconsin Wildlife Rehabilitators Association
Volunteer Service: Since 1992
What is the organization’s mission?
The mission of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary (WLS) is to provide an urban wildlife refuge where people can interact with wildlife, plants and other natural resources through environmental education and recreation.
How did you first get involved?
I’ve always had a passion for animals. Growing up, I spent a lot of time at the Wildlife Sanctuary. When I saw an ad on TV for their annual volunteer training session, I decided to attend and learn how I could get involved.
How have you volunteered with them?
I started as a general on-site sanctuary volunteer cleaning and feeding captive animals and taking them out for enrichment. Through conversation with other volunteers, I learned how I could get involved in the R-PAWS in-home rehabilitation program outside of my work hours. As time went on, I joined their board and just kept getting more involved with wildlife programs throughout the state.
What is the most rewarding part of volunteering?
Caring for wildlife is a chance to give back to the world we take so much from. I find it so rewarding to nurture orphaned wildlife and release them back into the wild for future generations. It’s also a great opportunity to connect with people who have a common interest. I’ve interacted with so many people over the years who have helped me understand wildlife and teach others what I know today.
Can you share a memorable volunteer experience?
I would have to say raising Taz, a porcupine whose mother was hit by a car when he was a baby. I was chosen to foster him and we bonded since day one. We couldn’t find him a mate and he naturally enjoyed being around people, so he became our ambassador for WLS information sessions. It was a unique opportunity for people to get up close to a porcupine and learn more about them—for instance, that they can’t actually throw quills like many think.
What have you learned about your community through your involvement?
I’ve learned that many people are kind and caring towards wildlife. I’ve seen so many people come through our doors to drop off injured wildlife because they care about these animals. Some families come together to say goodbye knowing he or she is in good hands.
Why is it important to give back to the communities we serve?
I’ve found that volunteering is not hard. I think some people are hesitant to get involved because it’s a commitment. Personally, I am not very outgoing and have a busy life so I wasn’t sure how I’d fit volunteering into my schedule. But once I got involved, I realized how much I could make a difference and that helping others is really rewarding. It made me question why I didn’t get involved earlier.
For those looking to volunteer, I’d say just do it because volunteering is important for our communities. Start small, with a few hours here or there, and see where it takes you.