News: Serving Country and Community: Marines take part in annual 'Boo at the Zoo' fundraiser
Story by Lance Cpl. Tiffany Edwards
NEW ORLEANS – The temperature slowly fell with the sun as ghouls, goblins, princesses, heroes and villains from across New Orleans gathered at the gates of the Audubon Zoo with their parents in tow.
Children’s Hospital, New Orleans’ opened the gates at 5 p.m. to one of their biggest annual fundraisers, Boo at the Zoo on Oct. 19. Marines from Marine Forces Reserve joined community volunteers to staff the event for children ages 12 and under – a night full of food, games, events and trick-or-treating.
In the middle of a grassy area was a group of colorful booths featuring games children could play to win candy and small prizes.
At one of these booths, Cpl. Estephania de León, an administrative specialist with Marine Corps Individual Reserve Support Activity at MARFORRES, manned a simple ball game for younger children.
De León began volunteering at her first duty station in Iwakuni, Japan, working primarily through the local church volunteer programs.
“When I first got to New Orleans, one of my first questions was ‘what kind of volunteer events can I be a part of?’” de León said. “There are definitely a lot more opportunities here in New Orleans.”
As the sun sank lower in the sky and the lights lining the pedestrian path guided families through the park to different attractions, Nancy Willis, the hospital’s volunteer coordinator, and her team of volunteer supervisors kept the evening running smoothly.
Supervisors on hand radios directed supplies and volunteers to areas throughout the park, keeping the night going like a well-oiled machine.
According to Willis, Boo at the Zoo is the hospital’s single-largest event for volunteer workers, with a final total of 1,800 to 2,000 volunteers staffing the event for four evenings. With each Saturday event completely selling out at 5,000 tickets, Willis says the volunteers are what keep the show running.
“We couldn’t do this event without our volunteers,” Willis said. “We get our special-event volunteers from all over the community: colleges, civic groups, high schools. They all get involved with us.”
For de León, Boo at the Zoo is one of the many volunteer events she has participated in since arriving at MARFORRES this summer. She credits her volunteer time both overseas and in New Orleans for keeping her active in local communities and allowing her to grow as a person.
“Volunteering does a lot, not just for the people receiving the help, but the people giving it,” she said. “It does a lot to build a person’s character. Having a close relationship with the community will also give you a sense of belonging.”
De León spent the rest of her Saturday evening doing what she loves: making people in her new community smile, just by being there for them. Marines, students and members of the community banded together to show the children of New Orleans that the evening full of lively tricks, treats and laughter was created for them; there was no fear of danger or dullness in the dark.
This work, Serving Country and Community: Marines take part in annual 'Boo at the Zoo' fundraiser, by Cpl Tiffany Edwards, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.