Friends of the Belize Zoo Plan Block Party Fundraiser on Oct. 19

CORTLAND, NY (10/11/2013)(readMedia)-- The SUNY Cortland community has rallied in the past to support an adopted zoo in a different country. On Saturday, Oct. 19, they will continue their efforts, this time by hosting a block party to support renovations to make the Belize Zoo more accessible to the public.

The block party, which is open to the public, will run from 2 to 4 p.m. in the parking area beside the Marketplace Mall in downtown Cortland. The festivities will continue at 7:15 p.m. inside the Blue Frog Café, site of several prior zoo fundraisers.

The block party will feature family-friendly carnival games and activities and possibly a few furry guests from the Cortland SPCA and other groups. That evening's festivities at the Blue Frog will include games of chance, music, magic and refreshments.

The presence of Jamal Andrewin-Bohn, an environmental educator at the Belize Zoo, will highlight the day's party. Anrewin-Bohn, in his second visit to SUNY Cortland, will be on campus to promote the zoo from Oct. 14 to 23.

Additionally, the 12 SUNY Cortland students who took part in an class work project have been invited to come talk about their experience in helping the zoo.

"We're hoping to have a great day, full of spreading awareness and raising money for a great cause," said organizer Mary Kelly, a student in the College's Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department and a member of the College's Americorps Project.

Last fall, students in a class taught by Vicki Wilkins, a professor of recreation, parks and leisure studies at SUNY Cortland, raised $8,860 on campus for zoo improvements. During spring break in March, Wilkins and 12 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in her Special Topics in Recreation and Leisure Studies course flew to the tiny, sparsely populated country on the northeast coast of Central America to make the entrance walkway to the national zoo reachable by anyone. They also adapted newly constructed restrooms outside the zoo's entrance, dug holes to plant landscaping and visual barrier poles and marked driving slots for the vehicles of visitors with restricted mobility.

"We knew our work with Belize couldn't end when we left The Zoo in March," Kelly said.

After brainstorming a bit over the summer and going down again to meet with Sharon Matola, the zoo director, Wilkins and Thomas Pasquarello, another SUNY Cortland faculty member, came up with the next phase of ongoing Belize Zoo Transformation Project, Kelly said.

"The Zoo only has about 500 feet of pathway left until most of the zoo will be accessible - a long way from the original goal of doing a mile," Kelly said. "The cost to finish the project equates to an estimated $10,000 or about $18 per foot," she said.

Any donations to the Belize Zoo Transformation Project will be money well spent, according to the zoo's representative.

"We knew that Vicki had rounded up her most motivated students, and had high expectations for the group, which, I'm happy to say they met and surpassed with flying colors," said Andrewin-Bohn about the spring break student project at the zoo.

"They managed to raise more funds than they had originally targeted for the zoo's accessibility project, and put in some solid days of manual labor, working on the pathways themselves," he said.

"I know even our work crew in charge of the pathways - who were a little skeptic since most of the group were girls - were also impressed with how well they handled the hard work, and tropical temperatures to boot," he said.

"It was heart warming to see students that dedicated to a cause hundreds of miles away from home."