Neverlands found in the minds of children


Neverlands are found in the minds of children — or so J.M. Barrie taught us. They vary from child to child, but are "always more or less an island." The Neverlands are compact enough that adventures are never far between.

Neverlands are found in the minds of children — or so J.M. Barrie taught us. They vary from child to child, but are "always more or less an island." The Neverlands are compact enough that adventures are never far between.

For J.M. Barrie, the Neverlands offered a time capsule for Peter Pan where he would never have to grow up. Immortality, however, was not included in the package, and Peter knew it.

"To die will be an awfully big adventure," he said when fearing his death on Marooners' Rock.

Death is not a common subject at the family dinner table. It's a lonely thought, mostly because no one wants to be forgotten.

Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo offers a memorial program where names can be engraved on grounds to be recognized for generations to come. While engraved bricks and benches are both very popular monuments, funds contributed directly toward zoo projects result in an end product enjoyed by a whole pack of 150,0000 to 200,000 people a year.

For those who have recently visited the zoo, they may have noticed the improvements occurring in the giraffe exhibit. These enhancements are possible because of the Iris (Myers) Keating Memorial. Keating was born May 3, 1931, in Garden City and passed away March 13, 2013, at her home in Spokane Valley, Wash.

Having grown up in Garden City, Iris Keating always loved Lee Richardson Zoo. Though she moved away from this community after college, she did remain in touch and became a member of the Friends organization after its establishment in 1975. She retained that membership through the years, until her recent passing.

Thus, her family found it appropriate to honor her memory here. When first approached by the family about establishing a memorial, the zoo and Friends presented the family with five projects the memorial funds could be contributed to. They chose the giraffe encounters project, as they felt it was something their mother would truly have enjoyed.

Because of her legacy, a new deck in the lower viewing area of the giraffe exhibit is now nearing completion. This deck will act as a formal feeding station for public giraffe encounters, which occur on weekends from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. during the summer season.

The memorial fund has also allowed for an expansion of the giraffe yard into the old African spurred tortoise exhibit. Poles for the expanded enclosure have already been set. Once the fencing is in place, the yard will be used as a giraffe bull yard. This will enable the zoo to seek a female giraffe, which will — fingers crossed — lead to baby giraffes at the zoo again. Mom and baby will be able to have their own yard, while the males can reside in the other.

Currently, Lee Richardson Zoo has two male giraffes. The zoo acquired a young male, Juani, after the passing of the female giraffe a few years ago. The elder giraffe, Shingo, is currently one of the oldest male giraffes in the country.

Many families will soon build lasting memories during giraffe encounters because of one person's love for the zoo. Consider doing the same. Everyone wants to leave financial support behind for their children. But there is a good chance that those children may also want to preserve their parent's legacy, not just their money. So do both.

When discussing your will, consider leaving 5 percent of your estate to Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo. You can designate where the funds will be contributed, or you can leave that up to your loved ones. Not all memorials have budgets to expand an existing exhibit or build a new one, but every memorial can contribute to the pool. Review the donor signage in the new Cat Canyon exhibit during your next visit. You may be surprised to see how many memorials were established to build a new home for our bobcats, jaguars and mountain lions.

For Iris Keating, Lee Richardson Zoo was more than a park. This zoo was her Neverland, similar to a compact island with a collection of animals from across the globe and adventures never far between. And like all Neverlands — and zoos — they vary from child to child. Iris's Neverland was home to seals, polar bears, an elephant named Penny and an island of monkeys. Just as my Neverland was home to zebras, tigers and a rhino named Howdi.

Chances are, Lee Richardson Zoo is your Neverland, too. Reinforce that foundation for your children. Leave your legacy here. Make it a family tradition. Iris Keating has. After all, Lee Richardson was her grandfather.

Brian Nelson is the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo executive director. Email him at Visit to become a Friend of Lee Richardson Zoo.

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