Category Archives: Nonprofit

Roars and Snores and So Much Mores!

Last weekend, I went camping. With lions.

Despite being only about an hour and a half away from my home, I felt as if I had somehow been transported to an African safari. I rode around in safari trucks with guides who knew a lot about the dozens of animals we passed. And before falling asleep in my tent, I listened to the carols of a pride of lions.

In reality, I was at Wildlife Safari near Winston, Oregon. I’ve been to this drive-thru safari experience a few times, but that wasn’t in the plans for this trip. I was there to take part in Roars and Snores, which involves a sleepover inside a lion enclosure, plus a jam-packed itinerary for animal enthusiasts. The event description on their website was somewhat vague, so I knew I was in for a weekend of surprises!

I arrived at Wildlife Safari an hour before Roars and Snores began. This was the perfect amount of time to enjoy the free Safari Village, which has a petting zoo, taxidermy room, and dozens of animals you can’t see in the drive-thru safari. There’s also an overlook to the lion enclosures, where I saw staff setting up for the night’s experience. Then I went to the gift shop to check-in. I was told to have a seat in the restaurant where guests would soon enjoy dinner and a presentation.

The barbecue-style dinner was delicious, with enough food and variety for everyone to eat as much as they wanted. Several zookeepers showed us slideshows about two animals we would see that evening: lions of course, and also bears. I learned a lot about these beasts, like how lions “carol”, which is a sort of role call using roars.

After everyone was stuffed, we walked it off on the way  to the nearby lion enclosure. The keepers explained how they don’t train Wildlife Safari’s animals to do tricks like a circus might. However, they do need to train the creatures in some ways to make sure that they stay healthy. For example, we got to watch the lions mimic their trainers by lifting up their paws, and that way they could be inspected for injuries. Each lion who did this was rewarded with raw meat kebabs. However, no one at Wildlife Safari forces the animals to do anything. These snacks were a good encouragement to get inspected and go into their nighttime shelter, but if a lion chose not to do this one night, then the staff would record this and try again the next day, but otherwise let the lion be.

Since these aren’t truly “trained” lions, we got to see some of their wild instincts up-close through the safety of a fence. When the lions saw the children in our group, or even adults squatting down, they would pace in front of that person. In the wild, lions often go after smaller prey because it’s a more guaranteed victory for them. But some of these lions’ habits weren’t the same as a wild lion. In this pride, a female was in charge. Typically a male would be the head of a pride, but since the two adult male lions were rescues, the females had more skills. The adult males are also kept separate from the cubs so that a male cub doesn’t try to overpower an adult male like they often do in the wild.

After the lions went to bed for the day, we hopped on the safari trucks and headed over to the bear enclosure. On the way, we passed through parts of the African and North American sections of the safari, so we got to see several species along the way. When we got to the bears, I watched them eat watermelon, play with boxes, and take their medicine. It was a great experience, but I hope I don’t get that close to a bear in nature!

By the time we were bussed down to the lion enclosure with all of our camping gear, it was getting dark. I don’t think I’ve ever set up my tent after sundown before, but it was accomplished! We were rewarded with a campfire and s’mores. Maybe the event should have been called Roars, Snores, and S’mores!

I really liked how the staff thought of everything to make the stay as pleasant as possible. Besides dinner and s’mores in the evening, ice chests full of beverages were available. This was especially helpful since I had left my water bottle in my car parked a mile away. An outhouse was places in our lion enclosure to use at night, but there were a few opportunities to use the Safari Village restrooms before that. (As a note, Safari Village is really cool after the park closes and the usual guests have left.) Even a continental breakfast was provided, which wasn’t mentioned in the information online.

Although this event is called Roars and Snores, neither of those happened until after I had crawled into my sleeping bag for the night. Lions use their roars as a way to keep track of everyone else, so when one lion roars, the others roar back. When the lions listen to this “carol”, they are able to tell if someone is missing, or if a stranger participated in the carol. They did this roll call (or is it a “roar call”?) several times at night before the roars of the lions were replaced by the snores of the other campers.

I awoke the next morning to more lion carols- quite the alarm clock! I got ready foe the day, tore down my campsite, and leisurely enjoyed the continental breakfast. Two African cranes noticed that all of us humans were caged up and walked over to the outside of our fence. It was like they had gone to the zoo to see the people exhibit!

Our first activity that morning was to go inside the enclosure that the lion cubs would use that day. We took cardboard boxes, spritzed them with perfume, and placed them around the enclosure. Apparently lions love playing with boxes and the scent of perfume interests them, but I think it also helped that the keepers placed meat in some of them! Once we were all safely outside of the enclosure, the lions were released and had a blast!

The last activity of Roars and Snores was with a big cat that can’t even roar. Everyone had the opportunity to get their picture taken with a cheetah. 

It’s hard to believe that thia all took place in less than 24 hours- they packed a lot into this short vacation! If this sounds like something you would like to do, check out Wildlife Safari’s website regularly for announcements about upcoming Roars and Snores sleepovers. They also sometimes offer an event that includes dibner for both you and the lions, bur without the campout. Your group could also book a private event that includes a lion encounter. Even if none of these are available for the date you want to visit, I’m sure you’ll still have a great time at Wildlife Safari at the drive-thru or in an animal encounter. 

PS- Discounted tickets are often available on Groupon, good for either drive-thru admission or an elephant car wash!

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Summer 2016: Adventures with Girlz 4 Christ

As both an avid traveler and the editor of a magazine for teen girls, I do have to be sensitive to the fact that teens are pretty limited when it comes to travel options. Even though I think my teen years involved more travel than most, I couldn’t do much more than family vacations, school travel, and youth group-sponsored trips. Designing my own adventures was basically impossible. However, I still want to encourage wanderlust and give a sense of adventure to the girls I write and edit for.

About two years ago, I attempted to start a travel section in the magazine called “Girlz on the Go”, which would have a feature of an interesting place and other articles containing travel tips. Unfortunately, it did not receive any positive response. Looking back, it wasn’t very realistic of me to suggest these things to teens and preteens. But I have since learned from my mistakes!

Summer 2016 Cover - real official

With the summer issue of Girlz 4 Christ Magazine that released today, I tried something a bit different. Instead of encouraging travel that probably isn’t attainable to the readers, I rounded up ways to make an adventure out of whatever they’re doing this summer. Since even those of us who are no longer teens can often feel “stuck” when it comes to travel dreams, I’d like to offer some of what is in the magazine here too.

-I’ve suggested it before, but attending church is something that can be done for free just about anywhere in the world! Even if you don’t regularly go to church, I’d encourage you to visit and get a new grasp of local culture where you travel, or even a different perspective of your hometown! Author Kristen Hogrefe explains four benefits of this practice in the issue.

-One of my favorite reasons to travel is that it helps me discover more about myself. Another way to learn more about ourselves is through counseling. Whether it’s for mental health management, planning out achievement potential, or something else, we could all benefit from adventures through counseling. The lovely Adelee Russell writes about her experience and gives tips on how to handle an adventure that can initially seem as scary as new travel!

-When I can’t travel, I still like to learn about culture! I connected with two international Girlz 4 Christ readers so that they could share their life with all the other girls around the world. One lives in Rome, and I actually attended her church when I was there last September, so it was a nice walk down memory lane for me. The other is from Australia, an area where I haven’t even come close to, but I want to go now more than ever!

-Another exciting interview I had the privilege of conducting was with John Luke and Mary Kate Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. They share tidbits of their life between Louisiana and Virginia. And since the theme of the interview was accomplishing goals, the advice they give can definitely apply to the goal of travel!

-Emily Joy shared how she connects with people from all over the world through her social media ministry, Encourage All. Just looking at her Instagram photos was inspiring enough!

-The more I travel, the more I consider how I can help the people in need around me. While voluntourism is a controversial topic, I definitely got some at-home training by watching Poverty, Inc.

-One of the fashion articles is actually just about how I’m preparing for my upcoming trip to Maui. I share how to shop on a budget, how to effectively pack, and how to make homemade, natural beauty treatments.

-When I’m not traveling, I take mental vacations largely by reading books. Scattered throughout the current issue are eight suggestions for your next “bookation”. These include books by Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family, a book by amputee Lauren Scruggs Kennedy, and even a book giveaway from Kimberly Rae!

-And because travel isn’t always smooth sailing, (in fact, life itself is rarely problem-free) Adelee Russell wrote another article about how to deal with those awkward and embarrassing moments.

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These are just some highlights of this jam-packed issue of Girlz 4 Christ. The magazine itself is very traveler-friendly: it can be accessed on virtually any device and subscriptions are free! Click here to visit the website and get this freebie!

 

PS- If you want to see other travel writing I’ve done recently, check out this post about Letters to Juliet in Verona, Italy!

Angel Banquet

This post consists of Part II of my Saturday events. Click here for what I did prior. 

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The place setting on my banquet table, complete with pictures of children to pull at the heartstrings!

I may get some flak for this, but here it goes: I’m a pro-lifer. I believe that every human life is precious, regardless of race, religion, class, disability…or size. I believe induced abortion is harmful, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as it can lead to years of regret. But I don’t believe that believing these things truly makes you “pro-life”. The British dictionary defines pro-life as ” …supporting the right to life of the unborn…” It’s not just about your personal beliefs; it’s about support. If you commit to carry a pregnancy to its natural ending in situations or conditions that are less than ideal, you’re supporting life. If you adopt or provide foster care, or do what you can to allow others to provide these special gifts to children, you’re supporting life. My current way of supporting life is to serve as an on-call housemother for the Magdalene Home, which is a house that provides a safe place and life skills for pregnant and parenting teen girls from Southern Oregon who may otherwise lose their child, drop out of high school, be homeless, or worse. Because Magdalene Home is not state-funded, I’ve been impressed with the executive director’s work ever since I met her. She requests donations, applies for grants, and, most notably, prepares the annual Angel Banquet and Auction, which I was thrilled to attend this past Saturday. 

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The program with the evening’s events

The evening began with appetizers and silent auction bids. Many of the silent auction items looked intriguing, but I’m on a budget, and the ones I was interested in had astronomical bids. (Which I suppose is a good thing, because that means more financial support for the home!) I about filled up on the hors d’oeuvres, which consisted of a multitude of fruit, dips, spreads, and veggies. But the evening hadn’t even officially begun yet, and I soon had to sit down for the dinner to begin!

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Some of the silent auction bids. (I took this picture later in the evening after some of them were already claimed, so just imagine twice as much on the tables!)

I had a table in the back, and thus some people kept on trying to move me up closer where there were some empty seats. But I actually preferred it in the back where I was opposite the stage and could observe the 200 people who came to support a great cause. (Plus, this way I wasn’t awkwardly in front of everyone when the director called out each housemother by name and the ones that were there had to stand up so people could applaud.) The events of the evening consisted of some short speeches from the executive directors and board members, a promotional video about the Magdalene Home that I had never seen before, a keynote speech from a former resident of the home with her healthy, happy family, and a live auction. Oh yes, and food, too!

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The transformed banquet hall with hundreds of supporters.

A local restaurant by the name of Rosario’s catered the main course. I selected a lasagna with yummy fillings that I had never tried in a lasagna before to go with my salad and bread. Dessert was served during the keynote speech, and the young volunteers served each table plates with a variety of finger desserts, such as cream puffs, lemon bars, and raspberry brownies! Since the local Catholic church was really involved in this fundraiser, the least of which was letting us use their building to hold the event, I’m assuming a lot of the attendees were Catholic. My dad was raised Catholic and had told me before that drinking is more acceptable in Catholic denominations than it is in most Protestant denominations, but it was still kind of surprising to go to an event at a church where wine, champagne, and beer were served and alcohol was a sought-after prize in the bidding! Speaking of bidding, I stayed for the live auction even though I knew the prices would quickly go out of my league. I just love listening to the fast-spoken auctioneer and seeing people get excited over each and every prize. Maybe someday I’ll actually hold my number up in an auction I attend!

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Although water and sparkling cider were my beverages of choice, I still somehow ended up with half a dozen glasses in front of me!

Overall, it was a fun night, and quite classier than events that I’m accustomed to attending. To honor the occasion, I wore my favorite dress. I seem to only save this dress for super-special events, as the only other time I wore it was to another fundraising dinner. I got it from Dainty Jewell’s, which is an online boutique started by an inspirational young woman. I love that all her dresses (and skirts and tops too!) can be worn to elegant events without having to worry about any wardrobe malfunctions, because your chest, back, and thighs are all adequately covered! It’s conservative without any hint of frump, and I really love how my black-and-white polka-dotted dress looks! It was also the first opportunity I had to wear a fancy shawl I got for Christmas. My outfit was just one of the many reasons that contributed to making the Angel Banquet a great new experience for me. I was proud to be among hundreds of other contributors dedicated to supporting life!

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I didn’t realize I hadn’t taken any pictures of myself until I returned home.

I would like to thank Magdalene Home for making the Angel Banquet possible and also Dainty Jewell’s for providing me with a super-cute dress!