|This is Jack MacRae, who is one of the coolest guys around. In addition to his skills at animal care, he teaches some superb survival courses and tells some pretty funny stories.|
Today is the Царевич’s seventh birthday, and he celebrated it in a most unusual but impressive fashion.
He invited his entire class to join him at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center, which rescues, repairs, and rehabilitates a wide variety of wild animals, and contains a menagerie of ones too injured or too impaired to be released in the wild. The center sits on a large parcel of native Illinois prairie, which is open to the public to explore.
We liked this idea, because frankly it was astonishingly cheap to host a party there. In exchange, the staff bring out a bunch of animals—some tame and nice enough for the kids to cuddle, some a little dangerous that the staff keep control of—and do up-beat kid-friendly presentations on the critters that live around them. No, they do not maintain non-native species, so the Czar has to use private funds to de-worm his Muscovy bat collection.
So the kids had a great time, which is nice, and they were all great—except Jake Toomey, who was a real fresh-mouthed punk that the Царевич’s older brother, the Цесаревич, wanted to punch in the mouth. The Царица had enough of him, and almost let Цесаревич proffer an a la carte knuckle sandwich; she did encourage him to yell at Toomey with his ’dad voice,” which scared the…anyway, we digress.
The nicest part of this story is all about the Царевич, who not only came up with the idea to have his birthday party there, but quite earnestly requested on the invitiation: “In lieu of gifts, please make a donation to the Center, consisting of the following needed items…” He truly did this on his own volition.
To say the Muscovy parents went a little overboard is a little understatement: the parents brought in hundreds of dollars of cereal, paper towels, bird seed, PetSmart gift cards, water bowls, resealable food containers, office supplies, and more and more. The entire storage room was filled, and a staffer remarked it was possibly the biggest single-day haul of donations they ever had. One worker was in tears as the Costco-sized boxes and crates just kept coming.
A parent mentioned to the Царица that the amount of money they would have blown on a Lego set actually buys an awful lot of other stuff. Other parents said they were so impressed by the facility that they will continue to bring their kids there and donate along the way.
His school mates all thought this was a great time and way better than the boring soccer parties and video game parties—real snakes, mom!—and a couple said they would ask for a similar party themselves. Let us hope this is a domino-push of kids putting others first rather than just mindlessly tearing open another hastily wrapped present to announce they already have this toy.
The Center informed the Царица that we should watch the mail, as they intended to send him a formal token of their immense appreciation to a little boy that decided he has enough toys and wanted to save the lives of a bunch of animals more. And he did it in a major way.
We are very proud, so very proud, of the Царевич, who thought up the whole idea on his own. Who knows what he’ll come up with for next year.