From the Executive Director's Desk

A Humbling Response

February 19, 2021

Hi, I'm Lynn Mento, Executive Director of Friends of the National Zoo.

As I'm sure you've heard by now, FONZ and the Zoo are parting ways. This was an incredibly difficult decision, and this has been a very difficult time for all of us here. But know that our hearts are with you, our amazing members and visitors, guests, event attendees, camp and class families, Snore & Roar and birthday party families. You are the reason FONZ has been doing what it’s been doing for 63 years.

I want to commit to you that although we're leaving the Zoo, we are not leaving our mission. The things that you have loved about FONZ’s mission—the fact that we are focused on helping and saving endangered animals here and around the globe, inspiring a love and appreciation of wildlife among children, and inspiring conservation behavior change in various ways—those things that are the core of FONZ will be the core of FONZ as we move forward.

Although we're leaving the Zoo, we're not leaving our mission. We will be reinventing ourselves, likely with a new name, new location, and a new way to achieve that vision and mission. That is what we're working on right now.

Beyond transitioning responsibilities over to the Zoo, we are also focused on building FONZ 2.0—the next evolution of FONZ. I hope you will stay with us through this process. We have been so humbled and touched by the wonderful outpouring of gratitude, thanks, and memories, these reminiscences down memory lane through the 63 years of FONZ. I'm just going to read a handful of the hundreds we received:

"My mother, Juanita Lambert, volunteered with FONZ for over 20 years. She started out as a guide a few days a week, went on to organize their library and eventually, when the first pair of pandas were gifted to the Zoo, she became the first guide at the Panda House. She loved standing and talking to the visitors about the pandas and answering their questions. She was so proud to say she was a FONZ volunteer."

"As a ‘wee’ one, my daughter was cheetah-obsessed. For her 5th birthday we decided to attend a Snore & Roar event that focused on cheetahs. It made an indelible impression. She learned so much, had an incredible bonding experience with her dad, and we have the most amazing picture of her from that event. 5 1/2 years later, she is still cheetah-obsessed and talks about perhaps someday being able to care for those magnificent cats."

"This is such a shock and is incredibly hard to process. We have enjoyed FONZ events for years. The amazing staff and management have made every event memorable. But we can’t wait to experience and SUPPORT the next chapter of this important organization!"

It is sentiments like that that keep us going as we focus on what's next for FONZ. I am so grateful for everything that you have given us over 63 years, and for your support and kindness right now. And I hope for your support and ideas as we move forward.

So we will stay in touch. I'm going to keep doing blogs and video logs. And I'd like to keep you posted real-time on where we are headed as an organization—how we're going to be saving endangered animals, and how we're going to be inspiring the next generation of conservationists. I so hope you will stay with me. Thank you.

*This transcript has been condensed and edited.

View all Updates

Read the FAQs