BCI Outreach Associate Dianne Odegard recently received a very unusual email from Austin, Texas, resident Tina Jackson. She said her son Simon's 10th birthday was coming up and he had decided that rather than receiving gifts, he would ask his birthday-party guests to bring donations for a local organization: Bat Conservation International.
How does a child make such a selfless gesture? Tina said Simon and his three siblings, all home-schooled, have been working on such grown-up concepts as the difference between "needs" and "wants." Simon took this to heart and embraced his mom's suggestion of donations. She made a list of choices and says Simon immediately chose BCI. He loves all animals, and bats are a special favorite.
Tina had asked if BCI could provide bat brochures for the party. Though BCI's small staff and funding needs place strict limits on in-person presentations, Dianne decided that Simon's generosity deserved an exception – especially since the party was on a holiday and BCI was closed.
So, armed with information and quizzes for the kids, plus a live Mexican free-tailed bat (one of several non-releasable bats Dianne cares for as a certified bat rehabilitator), she set out for the birthday picnic at Austin's Dick Nichols Park.
The party included children and adults. Dianne reports that the 30 or so children were enchanted by the live bat and proved unusually knowledgeable, answering her quiz questions correctly time after time: No, all bats do not have rabies, and bats don't want to hang out in your hair. One youngster guessed there were four species of vampire bats, coming closest to the correct answer (three) that Dianne had heard from kids or adults in years. That question about vampires, of course, brought giggles from the group.
As the afternoon ended, Dianne left the picnic with $135 in birthday gifts for BCI – and bats got the gift of an impressive young friend.