Safari West LIVE – changing children’s lives across the country
Safari West is committed to inspiring a love of – and respect for – the natural world in the next generation of young adventurers. Our latest educational outreach program is Safari West LIVE – a magical, live-streamed experience that brings the beautiful animals of Safari West to thousands of children in schools and hospitals across the country. One of those children is AJ, a five-year-old boy who recently spent several months at Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland. This is his story.
Stricken with brain cancer, AJ underwent chemo and radiation treatments at the hospital. During that time, he participated in the Safari West LIVE experience. AJ’s mother, Deanna, told us that after the show, he couldn’t stop talking about Safari West. He loved the giraffes and decided to focus all his energy on getting well and released from the hospital so he could visit Safari West and see his new giraffe friends in person.
AJ’s stay in the hospital has been very hard on the entire family, especially his 7-year-old sister Kaitlyn. And it’s not over. Every three months AJ still must go in for a brain scan to make sure the cancer has not returned. Before one of his recent scans the entire family was extremely stressed, so Deanna decided it was a good time to bring AJ and Kaitlyn to Safari West. Unfortunately, when Deanna called there were no tour times available. However, the reservations agent forwarded their contact information to our Executive Producer, Vernon Pride, who called Deanna and arranged for the family to visit Safari West as his guests.
When the family arrived a week later, their first stop was the gift shop where AJ and Kaitlyn were allowed to pick out their favorite plush toy. AJ, naturally, chose a giraffe. Then it was off on safari where the family enjoyed a private tour and AJ and Kaitlyn were treated to up close and personal visits with our giraffes, rhinos, and the rest of our wild collection of African animals.
Why is this so important to us? Vernon says, “AJ is one of our kids and our responsibility goes beyond the virtual safari we send to the hospitals. Aiding the family and patient, reducing stress and bringing more joy into their lives – that’s what we are all about.”
There’s more good news – AJ’s recent scans have been negative, and the family is in good spirits and filled with hope. We check in on AJ and the family frequently, as they have become beloved members of the Safari West family.