According to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center Marketing Associate Tye Chandler,
Annually in December, some local families get a respite from adversity and just enjoy their time with each other and the animals at Fossil Rim. These “Dream Day” events are made possible by significant fundraising opportunities like North Texas Giving Day.
On the morning of December 7, 2018, Fossil Rim staff welcomed the Timmons and Sanders families.
Rich Timmons was battling terminal brain cancer. He was joined by his wife, Sheri, plus sons Nicholas and Jake.
“We moved here in December 2015, and I’m very glad we did,” Sheri said. “Today was better than a dream come true, because it’s real. For us, it’s a special time to make memories. We don’t know how many days we have left, so this was a remarkable day.”
Sadly, Rich passed away just six days later, so those special hours together literally meant the world to the Timmons family.
Cecile Sanders was there with her daughter, Bryar. Bryar’s father, Brian, had recently passed away after an accident.
“Bryar has visited a few times with her dad; she likes the giraffes and her dad knew all the exotic animals, so they enjoyed driving around together while he would quiz her about what species they were looking at,” Cecile said. “But, she’d never experienced Fossil Rim to this level. There is a little bit of anger about (her father’s passing), but she’s a tough girl and is handling this relatively well.”
When the families arrived, Santa (Dan Broyles), Mrs. Claus (Shirley Smith), and the Elf (Sara Paulsen) appeared atop a Somervell County Fire Department truck to greet them. After some donuts and warm greetings in the cold, the families headed to the White Rhino Barn to meet Hoofstock Care Specialist Justin Smith. Smith introduced them to the white rhinos – including two calves – and let the guests touch and scratch the huge herbivores.
From there, they headed to the Cheetah Conservancy, investigating any animal species they might encounter along the way, to visit Carnivore Curator Jason Ahistus and Cheetah Specialist Alex Sharkey.
The families entered the “cheetah kitchen” and learned about nutrition for Fossil Rim’s big cats, then headed over to visit a cheetah, “Jojo”. Sharkey invited the guests to touch the hand-reared cheetah’s fur through the fence as she purred loudly.
Afterwards, the families traveled to the Children’s Animal Center to make enrichment items with hidden snacks for goats, a sheep, and a pot-bellied pig. The animal residents enthusiastically tore into their “presents”, while the guests of honor also checked their specific Christmas stockings for their first gifts of the day.
Next, it was off to Foothills Safari Camp for lunch and opening presents from Santa. The menu featured tried-and-true kids’ favorites.
The gifts brought some big grins and tears of joy, as well. When the Timmons family received an annual membership to Fossil Rim, Sheri got emotional and shared a kindred glance with Cecile that turned on the waterworks throughout the room. Magic moments like that encapsulate what Dream Day is all about.
To donate to Fossil Rim Wildlife Center on September 19th, please click here. To find out more about North Texas Giving Day, please visit www.NorthTexasGivingDay.org.
* Photo credit: Kristen Hannah ** Photo credit: Tye Chandler *** Graphic/photo provided by Fossil Rim Wildlife Center
In ten years, Communities Foundation of Texas’ North Texas Giving Day has pumped more than $240 million into the North Texas community. In 2018, more than $48 million was raised through more than 157,000 gifts benefiting over 2,700 area nonprofits.