Greeson: San Diego Zoo comes across country to make sick kids smile

Greeson: San Diego Zoo comes across country to make sick kids smile

April 11th, 2019 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

Seven-year-old Mac Allen listens to Velcro the flying squirrel before the start of a news conference at Children's Hospital at Erlanger's Kennedy Outpatient Center on Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by C.B. Schmelter /Times Free Press.

There was a story in Tuesday's San Diego Tribune about the fine folks at the San Diego Zoo finding a way to fix infertility in a rare species of rhinoceros.

Keep your horn jokes to yourself, please.

Today there will be a story told across town about the folks who run arguably the finest zoo in the country helping some sick kids right here in Chattanooga.

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Children's Hospital at Erlanger and the Chattanooga-area Ronald McDonald House will become the 222nd locale that will have a full-time channel with commercial-free animal programming produced by the folks at the San Diego Zoo.

Could be a program about a panda or a opossum. Could be a documentary on dachshunds. Could be a feature film on a feathered friend.

And all of it is free and done with the most noble of intentions — to make sick kids smile, which is the best medicine possible for them and their aching families.

"We know not every kid — especially kids who are sick — can come see the San Diego Zoo," said Darla Davis, senior public relations representative for the facility. "So we are trying to bring the San Diego Zoo to them."

It's a noble goal.

And the announcement today as the channel goes live off Third Street will be made with local partners and representatives from the Tennessee Aquarium and the Chattanooga Zoo.

There could be any number of animal participants there today from our local animal outlets.

Maybe a flying squirrel or a box turtle or a cane toad or a giant Gecko. Heck, the thought of any or all of those make kids every smile. (And health administrators panic.)

After the opening remarks today, a special video created for this event will be shown, and then the Aquarium and the Chattanooga Zoo will, shall we say, unleash, their special guests.

But the impact of this — locally and around the globe — is much more than the feel-good of the moment.

The ever-growing catalog of films and stories on the San Diego Zoo Kids channel are impressive.

African dwarf crocodiles. Elephant baths. South Carolina sea turtles. It's awesome. A sampling of the stories the San Diego Zoo has covered can be found on its Facebook page.

And it's continuing to expand. Yes, the Children's Hospital at Erlanger and our local Ronald McDonald facilities raise the number of outlets to 222, but since debuting in 2013 at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego the reach is as impressive as the purpose.

The channel, I'll call it SDZK to stay in broadcast avenues, is in 39 states across the U.S. and the District of Columbia, and in facilities in Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Pakistan, Qatar, and Curaçao.

"There are so many great stories and they are all kinds of different ones," Davis said. "That's one of the things that makes this channel so much fun."

And so important to everyone it touches.

Contact Jay Greeson at

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