Great things never come from comfort zones. This is why I was very excited to be a host for the Kid Connection Event at the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium, and Safari Park. Working with kids in foster care is not something I had done before, but I would consider going to the zoo with about 250 kids and being responsible for a group of 7, jumping in with both feet. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but whatever I expected was exceeded times a million. We started the day getting paired into groups that we would be watching over and taking throughout the zoo. I got paired with a group of 7 awesome boys from the ages of 10-16! At first, it was slightly intimidating, since most of them were older and I wasn’t sure how excited they were to be at the zoo. This anxiety dissipated after about 5 minutes as I learned that they were just as excited to be there as me.
When I say they wanted to do everything, I mean everything! We ran from exhibit to exhibit petting stingrays, feeding giraffes, and asking what anything and everything was. Somewhere between piggyback rides and informational messages about animals I was able to find connection with these boys. Whether it was mutual respect over favorite cars or something deeper like the situation they are in, I feel like the conversations that we had were important. One of them, in particular, was very open about his experiences and life leading up to this point. What blew my mind was not only the things this kid had gone through but his mentality of the situation. Instead of focusing on the bad things he was focused on the positive things he did have. Honestly, each kid that was in my group seemed to be positive in their conversations. They take care of each other, and it shows. Not to mention the manners that they had! They made sure never to leave out a please or a thank you.
All of the boys seemed to agree that their favorite thing that day was the water log ride that soaked them in zoo-smelling water for half of the day. They also all seemed to agree that this was the most fun that they have had in a while. The fact that Foster Arizona was able to give all of these kids a day to have fun, learn and bond makes my heart explode with happiness. Also, the fact that I got the opportunity to be a part of that day makes it even better.
When we wrapped up the very long day, everyone seemed exhausted but satisfied. We saw all there was to see and even made time to see our favorite ones twice. We walked toward the exit with the staff that was going to take them home and we realized we had just spent seven whole hours walking around and bonding. I got some hugs, I got some fist bumps, but all around I got thank yous. I am so glad I stepped out of that comfort zone because this was 100% a great thing and I am so eager to do more.
ASU Intern with Foster Arizona