October 29, 2018

The Journey to 500 Hours for a Special Zoo Volunteer

By: Angie Panos, Adult Volunteer Program Manager


Volunteering at Denver Zoo is a pretty good gig, especially if you’re an animal lover. Just ask Travis Omoto.

“I get to work here, and talk to the guests about the animals…and I get to see them, too!”

Travis joined our volunteer zoo family in February 2013 as an Inclusion Partner in Denver Zoo’s Inclusion Program. This volunteer program provides adults with disabilities the opportunity to work alongside fellow volunteers (or Mentors) to achieve personal independence, success and satisfaction. The confidence and personal growth our Partners gain is reflected in the connections they make with the Zoo’s community of staff, volunteers and guests.

One of the many ways Denver Zoo recognizes volunteers for their significant contributions is through the awarding of “recognition hour bars.” At monthly meetings, volunteers who achieve specific hour milestones get to celebrate with their family of fellow volunteers. For Travis, those achievements came early and often. He reached the 100-hour bar in less than a year, and followed it up by hitting 250 hours after only two years— earning five years’ worth of required volunteer hours in only two quick years.

Last winter Travis crossed over the 450 hour mark and finally the 500-hour bar—Travis’ ultimate goal—was on the horizon. Travis is a planner. He worked with staff to create a summer schedule that would have him volunteering two to three days per month, and even putting in some evening hours. After every—and we mean every—volunteer shift, he would closely check his hours to see how much closer he was to his goal.

Then, on August 8, it finally happened! Travis’ hard work paid off, and he reached his goal of 500 hours. And with his birthday coming up in early September, getting his 500-hour bar was the perfect way to celebrate. His family joined him at that month’s Volunteer General Meeting to see him receive his award, as volunteers applauded and sang Happy Birthday. The celebration continued with a special picnic with family and a carousel ride.

Congratulations to Travis on his very well-deserved award, and to all of our volunteers for the dedication and passion they bring to our Denver Zoo family every day.


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