John Ball Zoo is collecting stuffed animals to commemorate the life of one of its beloved bears to provide comfort to children at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
The stuffed animals are being collected in honor of Yogi, a brown bear who was humanely euthanized at John Ball Zoo this week after suffering from arthritis due to his advanced age. Yogi was born in the wild and had been with John Ball Zoo since 1994 after repeated human area conflict in Yellowstone National Park. Yogi would have been euthanized at that time if the John Ball Zoo had not provided him with a home. At the Zoo, he lived well beyond his life expectancy.
“John Ball Zoo is heartbroken by the loss of Yogi, who was a beloved presence at the Zoo for almost 30 years,” said Jaime Racall a zookeeper supervisor at John Ball Zoo. “We’re very proud of the long life he had and the excellent care he received from our team into his later years. It is heartwarming to know that Yogi will continue to bring tokens of joy and comfort to children through the stuffed animal drive in his honor.”
Yogi’s caretakers will miss his gentle, easygoing personality.
"Yogi's favorite day of the week was bone day,” said Jackie Wolflinger-Zellinger, swing keeper at John Ball Zoo. “He would pass up his dinner and any sweet snack we had for him, such as his evening medications mixed with honey or jam, for it, and he would be busy chewing until all the meat was gone. He was such a joy to work with.”
John Ball Zoo will collect stuffed animals from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily Oct. 5-19 to be donated to the children’s hospital. The toys should be new with tags and can be dropped off at John Ball Zoo Guest Services office.
“Thank you to John Ball Zoo and our community supporting our pediatric patients at the hospital,” said Jeannine Brown, certified child life specialist at Helen DeVos. “These stuffed animals comfort our kids during their admission and aid in the healing process. We pass out many stuffed animals every day to brighten a child’s stay especially if they forgot their treasured stuffed animal or lovey at home. Thank you for helping us make their hospital stay a little bit better with something to hold and hug.”