2011 Year in Review: Bill Sykes

Bill Sykes, Outreach Docent volunteer: I began volunteering with the Wildlife Center in March 2011, leading open house and tour group attendees on tours of the facilities. In April, a young educator took me under her wing, so to speak, and taught me how to handle some of the non-releasable education animals – the beautiful hawks and owls. This led to the development of a fund-raising program called Wings over Wine Country. Each Saturday in September and October, I’d take two or three of the wildlife ambassadors to a local Virginia winery. The birds themselves did the “talking” – I just told winery guests about the Wildlife Center and collected donations. Two happenings at these events are particularly memorable. I was nervous the evening before the first event on September 4th, as I knew that for four hours I’d be the public face and voice of an organization identified as the world’s leading teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine. Little did I know just how public that face and voice would be. Halfway through the event, a fellow from a local TV station showed up! A very nice piece appeared on the early and late evening newscasts that same day – great publicity for the winery and for the Wildlife Center. Weeks later, I was at another winery when two women appeared about an hour into the event. Their faces lit up in wonderful smiles as they approached me and Ambassador Pignoli, the little Eastern Screech-owl perched on my glove. The women were sisters who knew all about the Wildlife Center but had never had a chance to take a tour or go to an open house. They had driven up from North Carolina to spend the afternoon with Ambassadors Pignoli and Grayson [a Broad-winged Hawk]. Their visit captured all the wonderful things Wings over Wine Country was meant to do: introduce the Wildlife Center to guests in Virginia’s beautiful wine country, and encourage Wildlife Center fans to visit Virginia wineries. Read about more “memorable moments” from our staff, volunteers, and students — 2011 Year in Review.