Antonina’s Once in a Lifetime Zoo Experience

Antonina, 9  (Medical condition: nervous system disorder)   Antonina, 9 (Medical condition: nervous system disorder)

I wish to be a panda zookeeper   I wish to be a panda zookeeper

August, 2019   August, 2019

Antonina is a kind and compassionate kid living with a nervous system disorder. Her condition means that she spends most of her time in a wheelchair. She can walk with assistance for short periods, but physical activity tires her quickly.

Antonina loves being around animals and wished for the opportunity to do something she would not be able to do on her own. She wished to be a panda zookeeper. Thanks to our friends at the Calgary Zoo, her dream became a reality.

On the day her wish was granted, Antonina was greeted by staff at the zoo who were thrilled to help grant her wish. She was welcomed into the Panda Passage and at the entrance was a group of enthusiastic zoo volunteers dressed as pandas in celebration of her wish day.

Antonina had a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into caring for giant pandas. She helped feed them, tidied their living area and even baked a special panda-friendly cake for Da Mao, a male panda who was celebrating his 11th birthday.

“She’s doing full-on zookeeper work and she’s doing a fantastic job showing up some of our staff,” said Calgary Zoo curator, Matt Korhonen.

During Antonina’s hard-earned lunch break, a princess arrived and delivered a cheese pizza just for her. After lunch, the fun continued with a visit to the penguins and she was able to feed them their afternoon snack.

It was an incredible day for Antonina. Her family says she felt “very special” and was excited to see her wish covered on CTV News Calgary.

Antonina’s wish showed her that she could have a big dream and get to see it come true despite her medical condition.

Our sincerest thanks to staff and volunteers at the Calgary Zoo for making Antonina’s wish an unforgettable experience for her and her family.