Meet Kaitlyn: A Riverbanks Zoo Ambassador

By Tina Cameron

tinapicsFor the past few months I have been volunteering in the Ambassador building at the zoo. I have been working with a zookeeper named Kaitlyn. She is an amazing ambassador for Riverbanks Zoo. She was nice enough to answer my questions for the blog. I hope everyone enjoys reading about her.

Kaitlyn is 25 years old and has moved around a lot around the east coast and the Midwest but calls Wisconsin home. She has a younger, sister, her parents, and a dog. Her parents live in Wisconsin, but the family dog Taz, lives in Pennsylvania with her sister.

She chose zookeeping because, she has always had a passion for all animals and grew uptinapic5 going to the Jacksonville Zoo regularly. Her dream in high school was to work with animals, but she wasn’t sure what exactly she wanted to do. While attending The University of Wisconsin-Platteville, she had the opportunity to intern with the local aquarium and fell in love with the idea of zookeeping. She knew she not only wanted to take care of the animals, but to educate everyone on the importance of all animals, build homes for animals that are forever improving, and studying them to learn more about the species. She has a Bachelor of Science degree with emphasis on Zoology and Environmental Science. She has been a zookeeper for 8 months but also did an internship for an additional year.

Her favorite animal to work with is Miss Piggy, she is a nearly 50-year-old Texas Tortoise. Despite her age, and the fact that she is a reptile, she is incredibly smart. She knows how to touch a colored target, wave her leg, lay down and open her mouth all on cue. Kaitlyn does training on a regular basis with Miss Piggy.

tinapics2Kaitlyn’s hobbies include hiking and visiting the beach but in her free time she also bartends on Friday evenings in Augusta because she loves talking with people! She and her boyfriend have been dating for 4 years and he lives and works in Augusta.

Kaitlyn has been at Riverbanks Zoo since January 2018 as the Animal Ambassador Keeper. She is the guest engagement ambassador, and leads programs that include animal encounters, narrating animal trainings/feedings, and engaging with every day guests.

I have learned so much from her in the past few months. She is an asset to Riverbanks Zoo; our animals and we are blessed to have her.

Volunteering Does a Heart Good

By Tina Michelle Cameron

Ever since I was young, I have always had the desire to help others. I became a nurse in my early twenties and have been an oncology nurse since 1994. Helping others either professionally as a nurse or by doing volunteer work makes my heart smile. Volunteering can and will change your life as well as those you are helping.

Throughout the years I have volunteered with different cancer walks as well as being a yearly volunteer for the past 10 years with Fight Like a Girl here in Columbia. It was started by 5 amazing twenty-something’s who were diagnosed with breast cancer. They help raise money for unfunded, under insured patients at a large oncology center that I use to work at here in Columbia. I have also been a mentor to at risk youth at Dutch Fork Elementary School.

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Feta, my favorite goat at the zoo

I now volunteer four hours once a week at Riverbanks Zoo. I work in the Farm, zebra/ostrich area as well as the Education Center with snakes, rabbits, opossums, turtles, frogs and Madagascar hissing cock-roaches! It is the highlight of my week to be a “pooper scooper”, to feed and water them, to clean out their homes and to give these sweet babies hugs. I have been a volunteer for 13 months. It is hard manual labor and my doggy can’t quite figure out the different smells on my clothes and shoes when I get home, but, I absolutely love doing it.  I also enjoy helping the wonderful zookeepers at Riverbanks. I have a great love for all animals and it makes me smile to know I am helping them.

Despite my hectic schedule between two jobs, being in school full-time and volunteering, I wouldn’t have it any other way. After I finish my degree next May, I want to become a volunteer at Palmetto Health Richland Children’s Hospital.

There are numerous places to volunteer a few hours a week at. It will change your life and you can impact someone else’s life. Please consider volunteering either at a women’s shelter, the zoo, cancer walks or at a shelter handing out food. It will make your heart smile knowing you have given back to your community and to those who need help. I have listed a few links below for volunteer opportunities.

To become a zoo volunteer, go to https://riverbankszoo.org and complete an application. To help at the yearly breast cancer fundraiser hosted by Fight Like a Girl follow them on Facebook (The Ta-Tini’s)-the event is held every year in April or May.

 

 

 

 

 

Fall Family-Friendly Events

 By: Rebecca Stephenson, Guest Contributor 

FallSometimes it seems like there are a ton of Halloween and holiday events, but not a whole lot in between. If you want to create an unforgettable autumn experience for your family, you don’t need to look far! Columbia and Lexington are chock-full of fun events this November and December.  To help you on your quest for an awesome autumn, we’ve profiled a few local events that just might help your family make some new traditions.

  1. Check out the unusual 5-person performance of A Christmas Carol at the Trustus Theatre in Columbia. The show will be performed every Sunday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from November 1-16. Don’t miss this creative take on the Charles Dickens’ classic!
  2. If you’re feeling adventurous, visit the Deep Seas Adventure Corn Maze at Clinton Sease Farm in Columbia. The 8-acre corn maze, which will be open until November 17th, is fun for the whole family!
  3. Don’t miss the 28th Annual Vista Lights Holiday Season Kickoff in Columbia on November 21st at the intersection of Gervais and Lincoln.  There will be dancing, live music, free food, and more from 5 pm to 9 pm!  The kickoff ends with the tree lighting with the mayor.
  4. Experience Columbia’s longest running holiday tradition as Columbia’s Riverbanks Zoo and Garden lights up every night from November 22 through December 30th at Lights Before Christmas. Take your family to see the animals and the amazing display of almost 1 million lights from 5-9 pm.
  5. The Village Square Theatre in Lexington is hosting a Gingerbread/Graham Cracker House Contest on November 23rd from 10 am to 12 pm. The $5 registration for the event will be donated to the American Cancer Society and Lexington County Arts Association. Gingerbread-enthusiasts of all ages are encouraged to build houses and enter them in the contest.
  6. On December 8th, the Lexington County Museum will have its annual Holiday Open House from 1-4 pm. The free event will feature lots of goodies to enjoy as you stroll through the mid-19th century house.

What are your family’s fall traditions? If you know of other events in our area, please share them with us.