Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Center takes animals under its wing

Teen columnist

Ashlee Maez

Forever Wild, a nonprofit animal rehabilitation center, was the first source of volunteer work I experienced.

In 1996, it was founded by Darlene Braastad and has since flourished into a productive establishment that nourishes Tucson’s wounded or sick wildlife.

In the past two years, about 2,400 animals have been rescued. Having had a firsthand experience working with Darlene, I can happily say that not only did my knowledge of wildlife increase, but also my appreciation for Darlene’s work grew.

Animals need to be taken care of continuously – they need food, water and care if they are injured; therefore, Darlene’s job is never ending.

With the help of volunteers – and anyone is welcome – it must become a bit easier.

When I first began volunteering at Forever Wild, I expected perhaps a few birds and maybe some squirrels.

What was there, however, was a large variety of animals. It’s hard not to get attached to the animals, from hawks to Bisbee the bobcat, as well as the friends you make working there.

A few months into my volunteering, Darlene allowed me to feed a hawk. I remember being immensely excited – I knew of nowhere else that would provide me with an opportunity such as that. And I’ll never forget it.

I learned, along with the other volunteers, how to care for each animal, what foods they ate, the story behind why there were there, and sometimes Darlene would present us with fun little facts about the particular type of animal we were working with.

Occasionally, we would be asked to come along to functions and support Forever Wild.

We would set up a booth and sell buttons or pass out pamphlets explaining the importance of contacting Forever Wild should one find an injured animal.

Darlene would generally bring along a few friendly creatures to show while we shared the satisfaction of working with the animals.

These days were successful, and it was great to meet others who shared our interests.

And of course, others with animals would be there and we were always welcome to check their booths out and learn about them.

I hold great admiration for Darlene. She has put everything into Forever Wild and the animals that reside there. She handles them with care and is very knowledgeable about each one.

And to bring others who wish to share in this experience and take them under her wing is, in my opinion, very considerate.

I truly enjoy volunteering there when I am able. And even if working with animals is not the most appealing thing to someone, I’m sure that when they leave after just one day of hard work, it will all have been worth it.

Ashlee Maez is a junior at Tucson High Magnet School.

E-mail: kailachi@yahoo.com

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