Monday, December 5, 2011

Serenity Springs....a Refuge for Large Cats

Picture copyright of Serenity Springs Wildlife Center and borrowed from their Facebook page.
Adopting a pet is something that I always encourage, but not if it is an exotic animal. Animals such as primates, wolves, and large cats do not belong in a private home. There are incidents throughout the year where the basic instincts come to the surface and these animals attack humans, which is one piece of the heated argument against the capture and private owning of exotic animals. That's a topic to be explored on a different day however. Until this stops, thankfully we have organizations like Serenity Springs Wildlife Center that are dedicated to the animals that they rescue from harmful situations and provide them with a safe and permanent home. Part of their mission statement sums up what they do better than I could: "Through introduction to, and education about these magnificent creatures, we promote compassion and respect for all animals while fostering recovery for endangered species."
I visited Serenity Springs last year and had the opportunity to tour the facility in a group. There are well over 100 animals, not just large cats, that call Serenity Springs their home. It was amazing to hear the back story for each cat, some sad, some simply retiring from show-biz, and see how well taken care of they are now. One of the retired cats is Savannah from the movie Second Hand Lions:
Picture copyright of Serenity Springs Wildlife Center and borrowed from their website.
Cats like Savannah are common residents at Serenity Springs. If an exotic animal has been raised by humans, they usually cannot be re-released into the wild since they won't be able to adapt.  Shelters run by caring individuals become their home for the rest of their lives. It's actually very rare to find facilities such as this one, as the cost to keep an animal for so long is thousands of dollars each month. Various numbers show that there are actually more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild today, so zoological parks like Serenity Springs need plenty of funding to help as many of these animals as possible. Thankfully they have a committed set of volunteers and donors who keep the facility up and running.
Sometimes regular donations just aren't enough. I received a plea in October for extra donations to help out Snow Magic receive a much needed surgery. Snow Magic is one of only seventeen white snow tigers left in the world. He was retired from a Vegas magic show, and due to a spinal aneurysm needed to have one of his legs amputated in order to survive. Not only did Serenity Springs need the cost for the surgery, but also the various medications, treatments, and the building materials and labor for a recovery room as well. This totals over $25,000 and amazingly they reached their goal and was able to prolong Snow Magic's life with the amputation!  You can watch his recovery on Facebook, and see previous pictures of the recovery enclosure being built - or you can read more about the procedure in local Colorado Springs newspaper, The Gazette.
Picture copyright of Serenity Springs Wildlife Center and borrowed from their website.
I encourage you to explore Serenity Springs and find out all the different ways you can help these cats. Start by 'friending' them on Facebook and signing up for their e-mail newsletter. That way when another emergency comes up like Snow Magic's surgery, you will be able to help out! You are also able to donate money or supplies (such as hardware and tools), volunteer your time, run a fundraiser, or even 'adopt' your own tiger that you sponsor each month! No matter what talents you may have, Serenity Springs will probably be able to use you, even down to grant writing and bookkeeping! They have to turn down more animals than they can take in, and always have plans to expand and create better environments for their residents - so check them out and help out in any way that you can!
Logo copyright of Serenity Springs Wildlife Center and borrowed from their Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Animal Research - Where do you stand?

Like many of you yesterday, I watched the video of the beagles that were rescued from a research center.
Animal testing is a very heated topic. On one hand are organizations like PETA who focus on the cruelty involved. The animals are kept in cages too small to move around in, are never nurtured or shown companionship, and end up dying in that same cage. Even just the images that I've found of abused animals used in testing are too graphic to post - google at your own risk. The most shocking figures are posted by the USDA, as you can see here.  According to that report, the amount of animals that were tested in the US in 2009 that included pain in the testing with no drugs given to reduce the pain totaled 76,441.
However, there is the argument that animal testing is necessary. Because of the various regulations and acts that have been passed to regulate testing, most facilities are considered ethical and essential in medical research. One of the biggest supporters for animal research is the Research Defense Society.  If that site doesn't answer all of your questions, this dated Q&A addresses additional issues about animal testing, and provides many links for further research.  In the UK, the Animals Scientific Procedures Division and Inspectorate Annual Report for 2010 is available for public viewing.  Within this report are the steps taken to ensure the safety of the animals, and even lists out each infringement and the actions taken.
I purposely kept this post short, so that you can do your own research and reach your own educated opinion for or against animal testing. So tell me - which side will you stand with?  Or is it somewhere in the middle?  Please post your thoughts below:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Improving Lives...Starting with a Bean

An issue that everyone is very well aware of is homelessness. Regardless of the hour that I walk into work, or when I go out with friends, I can see those less fortunate than me on the streets. And that’s only a slight view of the full issue. Many are already in shelters or other abodes, but have no work and cannot see any opportunities to get out of their situations. There are plenty of options for society to help these folks today by donating money, time, clothing and food to local shelters and soup kitchens. But how can we also help these individuals create a better future for themselves?

The founder of the Women’s Bean Project* in Denver, Colorado had that exact thought when she witnessed women in a local shelter. The women were safe, but where would they go to make a change in their lives? By creating the Woman’s Bean Project, she created a process where women can learn the necessary skills to gain employment.  Each woman who is accepted into the program is held accountable for her appearance, hygiene, staying off any sort of harmful substance, and especially her work skills.  She must come to work on time everyday and stay on task.  The tasks start in the production line, but as individuals improve, they are able to move into other positions within the organization including marketing, sales and accounting.  The Women’s Bean Project works to ensure that by the time a woman leaves the program after six months, she has learned a multitude of life skills in additional to the jobs that she performed within the organization.  And when the program is over, the Women’s Bean Project then helps women with their decisions to either find employment, continue their education, or even work at another community non-profit if they wish. 

Want to help? There’s a few volunteering opportunities listed on their site, but one of the best ways to help is to purchase some of the items that are being produced by these wonderful women! Local stores in Colorado sell some of these items, but you can also purchase food items, jewelry and more straight from their site. I first came across the Women’s Bean Project while shopping in Belmar for my sister’s birthday.  I bought a beautiful ladle that was decorated by one of the women at the project, and it also came with a bag of beans with a soup recipe!  What drew me to the item was that each tag was signed by a different woman in black sharpie.  I knew the name of the woman who produced this product, and was able to provide her with a silent ‘thank-you’ for the work that went into creating it!

There are other opportunities to help as well, including hiring some of the graduates of the program!  Please take some time today to browse their site at to read about all the accomplishments they have made since 1989 and even read about individual journeys made by the women who were accepted into the project. 

This was an example of someone diving in beneath the surface of an issue. Yes, there are people struggling with homelessness, bad situations, and unemployment. And yes, there are programs to help these people in the short term. But thanks to the Women’s Bean Project and other similar organizations, these women have the choice to make a better future for themselves. People do change, they just need a little nudge sometimes. And the Women’s Bean Project nudges them down the right path.

*Please note that for these first few posts, including this one, I have NOT directly contacted the Women’s Bean Project.  This post is meant to be informational only at this time, and as this blog gains in popularity, I will be revisiting this topic again with proper interviews.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Well, I took the first step to making a difference back in September, then stood there for three months!  I truly felt a sense of pride that I was finally moving forward with a purpose, to make a change, all of the things that I mentioned in my first post gathered in my arms – and I left that motivated feeling by the way side.  Yes, I do have an excuse – my current company has sent me overseas for a few months to work with a partner of ours.  It truly has taken up most of my time.  If you have ever traveled on business before, you realize that you never are allowed to stop working, especially with time differences.  So while I kept thinking about my blog, I never picked it up.  It’s an excuse, yes.  But we all have excuses, and we should never let those excuses get in the way of what we believe.

So with that realization I have admitted to my misstep, and have made a resolution to not allow an excuse to get in the way again.  Until I feel like this blog has done its job and I move on to something even bigger, I’m making a commitment to never abandon it again.  This post is more for myself than any future readers – it is a method of holding myself ensure there are no more excuses!

So – let’s begin.  It’s mid-November at the moment and I hope to add at least one more post before the end of the month.  Until I’m back home, I cannot commit fully to this project, but I will give what I can.

Are you ready?  Are you done standing still like I’ve been doing?  Great, then take my hand and let’s begin this journey together!


On November 30th, 2011, I posted the below as a blog post - however I feel like it's not something that most readers want to see, so I've removed the post and included it below.  It was originally titled "Intermission - a peek into my movivation"  -

While I was in the middle of researching and drafting my next blog post, a little something kept tapping my shoulder and whispering in my ear. It's been slowly becoming louder and harder for me to brush aside. So, while I'm still not confident enough to embrace it, I think I'll at least publicly acknowledge it. I can't put a name to it...yet. But let me try to explain it the best I can.

It's a driving need, a pulsing of my spirit, to make this world a better place. I've had it for years, but I couldn't figure out how to let it manifest itself. It's becoming more clear as I progress through life. I feel myself growing, even as my heart is breaking the more I learn about the world's struggles. I started this blog to show others what is happening around them and sometimes highlight the wonderful people who are dedicated to making a difference. I think I'll continue down that path for a bit, but already I see how this blog is going to evolve. That little spark that is growing inside me won't simply be satisfied with these posts. I believe that some of the things I'll start focusing on will be shocking to the readers of this blog. I want to show you the truth of what is happening in the world. No sugar coating. Soon society will no longer be able to look the other way. This blog will open their eyes, and motivate them to make a change.

So please be patient while this blog slowly changes direction. Remember that it is still in the rough draft stage, not officially launched yet, so I thank you for your willingness to stick with it. Please share your criticisms, and also spread the word that a new blog is beginning - change is coming!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Beginning of the Change

Everyone wants to make a change, make a difference - whether it's worldwide or simply touching one individual.  But it's never easy.  Even making the first step of deciding to do something at all is a huge one that many cannot achieve.

But let's say you do make that step.  It's time to help out, someway, somehow!  What's the next step?  What cause do I support?  Do I simply donate money, or my time as well?  When will I be able to set aside this time?  What kind of commitment is expected?  And the biggest stumbling block of all - What if it doesn't really matter?

I personally have been struggling with those questions and many more, for many years.  Events keep happening in my life that make me say There, that's it! That's the motivation I needed and tomorrow I am going to do a 180 and make a difference!  But, it seems that tomorrow never comes.  Whether it's something I've read in the news, depressingly high death tolls that have plagued us throughout history, or a friend passing away decades before their time - I make the choice to change, to volunteer, to switch careers, to write a book, to start my own non-profit...and tomorrow never comes.

Well, that's ending now with Open Their Eyes.  While the goal of this blog will inevitably change over time, I am starting out with a mission laid out in the title.  There are many issues within the world today, and what we see in advertising and major feature documentaries doesn't even scratch the surface.  School children are taught about the death tolls associated with Hitler, but what about current world leaders?  Millions participate for Race for the Cure, but what about the rare forms of cancer that receive no funding?  Please don't get me wrong, we must never forget the wrongs that happened under Hitler's regime, and I've participated in the Race for the Cure myself, but I am so ignorant of the issues that take years to surface or that are not 'mainstream.'

Open Their Eyes will be a place where I will strive to do just that - open their eyes.  The eyes of those that are not already aware of these issues.  I am not here to criticize any one of these issues - simply to educate, hopefully with a non-biased viewpoint.  I will focus on non-profits, documentaries, artists, individuals, major corporations, websites, and anyone else that is making strides towards a better tomorrow.  They will receive their own 15 minutes of fame through this blog, outside of their own marketing and advertising (if they even have that luxury)!  

So bear with me while I get this blog on its feet.  I have many large scaled hopes and dreams for Open Their Eyes - but for now, we'll start with my first step.  So, let's begin this journey - starting with this one me open their eyes.