Voices of FONZ
For more than 60 years, Friends of the National Zoo has been dedicated to protecting endangered wildlife and providing inspiring educational opportunities at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and beyond.
As you can imagine, six decades leads to lots of memories! Recently, we asked our supporters for their favorite FONZ stories, and they were quick to share—from FONZ programs inspiring a fledgling conservationist to study zoology in college, to an unforgettable FONZ-sponsored trip to the Okavanga Delta in Africa, to memorable moments at events like Boo at the Zoo.
Check out some of our favorite stories below. Want to share your FONZ story? Email us.
I have been a FONZ member since 2014 when my daughter was born. Since then I’ve added two more girls and they all love the Zoo. My family has been to several FONZ events, but our favorite had to be ZooLights. We first went when my oldest daughter was just 5 months old and we have gone every single year since then (except for last year, of course). We also love Boo at the Zoo. We did the drive-thru version this year and my eldest loved the fire-breather! Her favorite animal to visit is the cheetah. My middle daughter likes the big fish in Amazonia. The youngest has no opinion yet.
Cari Faszewski Crosby
These are two of my grandkids, Moliia's on the left and Mokari is in the right. Both are animal lovers, with multiple trips to the Zoo just to get out and see the animals. Moliia loves sloths and Mokari loves wolves and knows all dinosaurs. The dinosaur exhibit had us there at least four times.
I've been a member of FONZ my entire life, I am 53 years old. As a child I fondly recall completing scavenger hunts at the Zoo with my dad. He passed away in 1995, and a memorial to him ("A Lions' Heart") was on panel 1 of the tile wall that used to surround the enclosures on Lion/Tiger Hill. Instead of visiting his gravesite, I visited that memorial regularly. I've participated in Snore and Roars, Zoofari, Zoo Lights, behind-the-scenes tours (highlight: a purring cheetah licked my hand through a fence!), adult classes, Front Royal open houses, and so much more. I read the member magazine cover-to-cover. My pandemic birthday in October was celebrated at the Zoo; it's still the only public space I have visited.
When I was first adopted, my parents took me to the Zoo, and I have been going to the National Zoo since the mid ‘80s. Once I had children, I became a FONZ member and began taking them. It is amazing to see how much has changed over the years. We were so excited to attend Bao Bao's first birthday event. My daughters and mom loved attending the early event and walking around the panda house. Finding out that Mei Xiang was pregnant was so exciting. An incredible memory to share with my family.
Photo: Max Noah
I have taken several FONZ-sponsored trips but the most memorable was in 1992 to the Okavanga Delta in Africa. We rode elephants each of five days to go out into the Delta and observe the animals. We stopped each noontime for lunch served on tables with linen cloths brought by the staff of Abu's Camp where we stayed. The trip also included Victoria Falls and Capetown, South Africa.
We have been FONZ members since our kids were babies, and our oldest is 24 now. Erin has always loved animals. Her favorite class in high school was Animal Science. We visited the Zoo so many times every year that Erin could give tours. She is now a senior zoology major and will be graduating in May.
I was a docent at SCBI for 20 years and always worked hard to learn and understand all I could about the work being done there as well as conservation in general so I could give better and better tours. One of my great inspirations were FONZ’s three-session mini-classes at the Zoo starting in 2005. I was exposed to everything from fragging coral to how Asia Trail was designed and constructed, to hearing about inoculating wild gorillas in Africa against human diseases. Every one of these classes and every one of the lecturers was inspiring. With the very broad range of information I got from the classes, I think I was able to give the kind of tours to our guests that left them inspired and eager to know more. Those classes were incredible.
Back in the '90s, I worked as a FONZ volunteer in the elephant house at a table that held elephant artifacts. I also sold FONZ memberships there! It was an exciting time because Kumari had been born, and it was just great being able to watch the elephants when they were there! I would get into my car to drive home, and immediately ‘smell’ like the elephant house!! Those clothes went right into the washer upon arriving home!
FONZ has definitely inspired our lives! My older daughter has been attending zoo camp since she was in kindergarten. She learned so much about animals that her love for them grew even more. We enjoyed each of the Boo at the Zoo that we attended. It was so much fun for the whole family!
Want to see your FONZ story here? Email us.