Young kids in grade school don’t really have the ability to do a lot of big things to help their community. Most times, they are relegated to producing artwork, singing videos and other feel-good tasks that are doable in a single class session or with a small amount of effort. However, one grade school in California decided their kids could do a bit more – they decided to become a pep talk counseling resource for anyone who wanted to listen to them.
The creative idea involves the kids providing positive messaging by phone. Given a snappy name like Peptoc Hotline, West Side Elementary School students, located in the rural town of Healdsburg, provide by phone positive statements, phrases and sayings for the listener, intended to give callers a mental boost, especially right now with so much angst going on. The idea of positive messaging resonates even louder in 2022 with a disturbing war going on in the Ukraine, everyone still feeling the effects of the recent pandemic, and life’s challenges in general not taking a break after such a rough two prior years.
Jessica Martin helped think up the Healdsburg phone hotline idea. Being a known artist in the rural town, she also teaches art at West Side Elementary. The goal was to at least give the local community a bit of a boost and smile, but no one expected it was going to have a further reach. In fact, the Peptoc Hotline ended up generating over 5,000 calls daily. People were all bottled up for so long. Once word got out,the Peptoc Hotline went viral!
None of the discussions or statements are live though. All of the kids’ positive messaging is recorded and then put on standby waiting to be played when a caller dials in. Callers can choose what category of messaging they want, and they get positive encouragement from one of the gradeschoolers recorded into the program. The call line works in both English and Spanish, and the translations are also provided by the kids. Some options are just sounds that make people happy, such as a bunch of kids laughing their heads off and nothing else.
One of the most popular options is the kindergartner pep talk choice. The pithy statements are short and to the point, nothing complex. But for many, it’s exactly the kind of encouragement they need sometimes, which seems to be why the phone line is so popular. While the line idea may not last in the long-run, it gave the kids a great lesson on the power of communication, and Peptoc Hotline clearly also helped out a lot of people who needed a pick-me-up, even if just from kindergarteners.
A Funny-Named Bat Gets Australian Top Honors
When winning an election, it helps be popular. That was the case for one particular mammal. Over the period of a month and a half, or six weeks, a massive voting event occurred. Some 50,000 animals were included on the ballot. And only one of them was going to be the winner. If selected, the particular animal would be voted as the Australian Mammal of the Year, and the 2022 selection would be the first one of the event in history, a pretty hefty title even if that particular mammal had no clue about its significance.
As it turned out, with a whole lot of voting and wondering and finally a selection, the winner turned out to be, hold tight, the Southern Bent-Wing Bat. Yes, a flying animal won the honors for being the inaugural mammal chosen for the title above.
The dingo was assumed to be a favorite, but that contender fell by the wayside pretty quickly in the early weeks. Day after day, week after week, the Bat just kept climbing the ranks and holding on, almost as if playing out a voting version of what it’s been doing in nature, surviving as a microbat and an endangered species.
In real life, the Southern Bent-wing Bat doesn’t live in such a glamorous hallway or venue as the voting podium online. Instead, it’s a cave-dweller, making a home in the stretch between the southeast part of South Australia as well as Victoria. Sizewise, the Bat is extremely small too, only measuring some 5 centimeters in terms of body length. It’s practically a feather in terms of weight.
Like other bats, the Southern Bent-wing Bat uses its ears and echo-location to find its way while flying, as well as to hunt. The Bat can definitely see, but all of its primary sensory work happens with ears and listening. It’s also a long-distance flyer, usually traveling well over 70 kilometers at night to find insects for dinner.
While they are extremely proficient at using body heat and consolidation of numbers to create the perfect breeding and maternity environments in caves, easily boosting the humidity and heat for new pups, the Bat species in general has been significantly harmed by encroachment of development and the loss of viable cave systems for homes. The population is at serious risk of decline, with a 97 percent collapse expected over the next two or three decades without serious protection.
The goal of the contest is to boost awareness of the most endangered animals worldwide, an Australia has a significant share of them, found nowhere else and in short number where they are. As a result, by boosting people’s awareness through the contest, the hope is that it will also increase conservation efforts for the species that are endangered, ideally reversing the trend if possible.
Baby Giraffe Surprise for Zoo Visitors
When you go to the zoo, you expect to see animals from the other side of the world, get a bit sunburned, eat some overly expensive park food, and feed some peanuts to the farm animals. You don’t expect to get a front row seat to nature at work. That’s exactly what happened to visitors who happened to be watching the giraffes at Milwaukee County Zoo and who got the odd but amazing miracle of seeing a new giraffe come into the world.
The mother to be until the special day was a giraffe named Ziggy. She was expected to have her baby soon, but the exact day was still a surprise and hard to predict. As it turned out, Ziggy’s new baby decided to arrive just before lunch at 11:40am. The staff were alerted the giraffe mother was in labor, and everything went into operation to prepare for the arrival. Less than an hour later, a new baby giraffe was born. And, amazingly, by 1:40pm that same baby giraffe was up and walking around. It is amazing how fast animals start fending for themselves versus humans, who take years before they can even move properly. The Milwaukee County Zoo got the announcements out online within minutes of the arrival.
Even for the Zoo staff, the giraffe’s sudden arrival still caught folks a bit off guard. Mainly, the speed of the birth caused folks to scramble. The last time a giraffe was born in the Zoo was somewhere in the 1990s. Lots of other animals have had births, but giraffe newborns are extremely rare, maybe a once in a generation event.
As for a name for the new giraffe, the Zoo staff will get the privilege. Some hoped it might be a contest, but the staff who worked so hard to make everything run smoothly with little warning earned the right.
As for new arrivals in 2022, the new giraffe was not alone. Spring heralded a big wave of new animal arrivals at the Zoo. That list included a new baby seal, two jungle birds and a second giraffe baby that ultimately was named Poppy.
For some Zoo visitors, the birth was a bit of an abnormal experience. Most times, animal births are kept out of sight. The newborn animal just appears one day after it’s been cleaned up and is able to walk. In this case, however, Ziggy’s baby was born in front of everyone. Some of the visitors weren’t used to seeing nature play out in raw display. As for the mother, Ziggy could have cared less about privacy. She was in her home, and her baby was going to happen regardless of the Zoo staff’s wants or schedule.
And as for the giraffe baby, he’s healthy and doing just fine, nursing with Ziggy and growing every day.
Gaza Lion Cubs are a Rare New Sight
The Gaza Strip is known internationally as a place of ongoing conflict and strife between Israelis and Palestinians. However, in 2022, it’s now also known as the home to three brand new lion cubs as well. Born in Gaza City’s own zoo, located in Nama, the three cubs didn’t even have their eyes fully open during their display. Everyone locally came to see the new arrivals, even with air bombings and rockets flying in the background.
Unlike the typical zoo presentation in big cities, where typically the new animals are showcased in protective clear plastic zones with lots of fancy lights and similar, the Gaza City Zoo has to make do with what’s available. So, the lion cubs were presented in a cardboard box to protect them and make sure they didn’t wander off.
The fact that three cubs were born is considered a huge miracle. The continuing smattering of explosions rocked the area and stressed out the zoo animals. The lion mother had previously had multiple miscarriages as a result. However, each of the latest cubs shows a healthy sign of life, weighing in at 700 grams each. While outside the fighting between military forces continued, in the zoo it was a special day.
Born on a Friday, the three cubs arrived during a ceasefire period with some relative calm. Given the amount of risk and damage going on all around, it’s amazing that a zoo even operates in Gaza these days, and the fact that the lion cubs arrived is even a greater miracle beating the odds. The only way the zoo has been able to operate has been through charity support. And it’s been a fight. A number of other zoos have folded out of a basic inability to function or even provide food for the animals contained; most starved to death, unable to be moved anywhere safe. Add in the fact there isn’t much sympathy for trapped animals when some 2.3 million people are also effectively trapped as refugees in the Gaza zone as well.
However, for at least one day, all the above was forgotten. Instead, people and their kids just wanted to marvel at seeing the new lion cubs. They will join a population of animals supported by the local community helping run the zoo, including birds, monkeys, wolves, foxes and a small pack of hyenas as well. It’s not much in comparison to other cities, but it is the Gaza City Zoo.
Tony Hawk Trades Skateboard With a 6-Year-Old
Kids have the most straightforward, amazing imaginations. They aren’t burdened by the complications of the adult world. For example, in the case of FedEx carrier, Mikail Farrar, he found himself challenged to make the connection between a 6-year-old, Cooper Taylor, and a famous skateboarder, Tony Hawk. As the FedEx deliveryman was making his rounds, Cooper stopped him and asked the FedEx employee to deliver one, well-used skateboard titled “Tony Hawk” to the famed skate hero. Cooper’s mom was behind the boy and nodded in a knowing manner that what the boy was asking for was a bit impossible, but she was going along with it anyways. However, Farrar took the matter a bit more seriously.
Instead, the FedEx employee got online and started trying to figure out what Tony Hawk’s shipping address was. The skateboard only had his name; kids don’t think in terms of addresses and zip codes at Cooper’s age. So, off to TikTok the driver went to see what some group-thinking could do in the digital age. It turned out to be an extremely smart move. By that evening, Farrar’s phone was getting so hot from activity, it was becoming a bit uncomfortable to hold. As it turned out, Farrar either accidentally or ingeniously tagged the video correctly, and everyone saw the info request, at least everyone that mattered in the skateboard world. Not only did the video get attention, it went viral!
As it turned out, even Tony Hawk himself got involved, a rarity given that he generally has avoided TikTok since 2018. Hawk arranged for the delivery of the board with FedEx and, in the video message response he posted, he made it clear he wanted to meet up with Cooper as well. Between the adults involved, Farrar and Hawk made the arrangement for the old skateboard to get to its destination as desired by Cooper, and, for anyone checking online with tracking, it arrived at Hawk’s address on May 27, 2022.
Farrar himself didn’t expect Tony Hawk to engage the way he did. While even as a FedEx driver he knew who Tony Hawk was, Farrar had no real hope that Hawk himself would get involved. Generally, he assumed celebrities are far more engaged in other things than answering kids’ requests. In that respect, Farrar definitely didn’t know about Hawk’s reputation of engaging with kids and skateboarding proactively, regularly going to classrooms for speeches, and showing up for charities and nonprofits when he can.
So, as the story went along, Cooper as well as his sibling, Tucker, both ended up getting a response from Tony Hawk. The two boys, literally looking skater-poster ready with long hair and over-sized T-shirts, responded on TikTok to Tony Hawk and thanked him for their presents, courtesy of Hawk. Both kids got brand new boards with slick graphics and plenty of Bones brand equipment for their new boards as well.
For their father, the whole thing is a bit of a dream come true. He skated when he was younger, idolizing the tricks and amazing aerial stunts Tony Hawk became famous for. To see his kids connect with a hero is a bit of an amazing moment for the boys’ parents as well.
The Library Cat of Port Austin
Library regulars expect to see books, computers, magazines, posters, notices, bulletin boards and even seminars at the local library building or community center adjacent to such facilities. However, they typically don’t expect to see a dedicated house cat and standard equipment. However, for Port Austin, a feline accompaniment is exactly what’s on order for book lovers and library fans in the local town.
Named Booker, which oddly seems to be similar to books, the orange feline wasn’t a planned acquisition for the library. Instead, the cat decided to make the place home all on its own. It helped that once the cat became a regular, the patrons and staff made a point of taking care of the cat as well. Good things happen when you’re regularly fed at the same location daily.
This September 2022 will be a solid three years since the cat showed up, and Booker isn’t making any bones about leaving. Mary Jaworski was the original discoverer of Booker. She originally found the cat had somehow snuck into her garage at home, half-blind, and unable to eat on its own. Jaworski tried to find someone to take in the cat, but nobody was volunteering or available. As the library director for Port Austin, Jaworski ended up watching and caring for the orange feline both at home and at work. It helped that the library board was also fond of cats as well. So, as it turned out, Booker was charmed; the cat not only had a home to roam around, it had multiple fans to take care of the cat as well throughout the day.
As it turned out, the patrons liked the idea of a home cat lounging around and roaming the Port Austin library on a regular basis. It made the library homey and comfortable. That helped Booker’s transition inside the library as well, after the cat was up to date on all his shots and safe around all of the patrons, including kids.
Booker wasn’t lacking anything inside the library, and there was no worry he was going to start exercising his claws on the book inventory. Instead, the cat has its own cat tree, carpet for claws, appropriate amenities for personal business, and plenty of cat toys and areas to escape when it gets busy and the cat just wants to be left alone. Booker actually became so popular, he started to develop a collection of donated toys and cat food from the locals. And if he happened to be out of sight longer than normal, everybody would start asking where he was and if everything was alright with the animal.
Celebrity status probably wasn’t in the cat’s original plans, but Booker seems to have adapted quite fine to all the attention he gets on a regular basis. The kids play with the cat when he wants activity, and, in turn, Booker has been an attraction to bring more kids to the facility and into reading in general. And Booker is quite good at hamming it up for the crowd. He loves the petting, getting held, sitting next to patrons on the furniture and is not easily spooked by the human activity going on daily. In fact, Booker is probably one of the best behaved cats most people will meet.
Finally, Jaworski notes, Booker has a habit of wanting to sound out any new arrivals he hasn’t seen or smelled before. If there are bags or belongings, he’s all over the stuff before the patron realizes what’s going on. That said, Booker isn’t about to have a team under his leadership. One cat seems to be more than enough for the library and its customers for now. Ironically, Jaworski herself is allergic to cats, but she tolerates Booker. Ultimately, the cat earns his keep attracting more than the normal flow of patrons to the Port Austin library, easily justifying the operations and helping the library grow.
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