Family comes to zoo's aid

The High Park Zoo has received a gift as sweet as honey.

The Honey Family Foundation has pledged to match up to $50,000 in funds raised by the public between April 9 and June 15 in order to keep the High Park Zoo open until the end of the year.

They have also offered to do the same for 2013 and 2014.

But that means the High Park Zoo still needs to raise at least another $20,000 to get the $100,000 to keep the facility open until the end of December. However, the Friends of High Park Zoo hope to raise at least $50,000 to put toward the zoo’s operating for future years.

“(The deadline is) to kick start people who haven’t donated into realizing that we’ve got a time crunch on this one,” said Ward 13 councillor Sarah Doucette, who is working with Friends of the High Park Zoo to save the attraction from closure.

The small, 110-year-old zoo nestled in High Park costs the city $227,000 a year to operate. Doucette hopes additional organizations will step forward to help the struggling attraction.

“Now that the Honey Family Foundation has offered this we hope other corporations and foundations will come and help,” she said.

Friends of High Park Zoo member Diane Buckell expressed frustration at recent media reports that simply said the zoo is saved.

“If another neighbour comes up to me and says ‘Oh how great you’ve got your money’, I’ll scream,” Buckell said. “Because we haven’t.”

If the full $50,000 is raised and matched with “Honey money” as Buckell calls it, any additional funds would go toward subsequent operating costs or the park itself, she said.

In addition to fundraising, High Park Zoo advocates have thought up some creative methods for gathering capital. They are having a baby-naming contest for recently born llamas, sheep and wallabys.

“We’re also doing a penny drive,” Doucette pointed out. “So if anyone would like to roll their pennies and drop them off at the zoo, we’re willing to be a home for them.”

She emphasized that while the Honey Family Foundation’s gift makes the zoo’s future far brighter, they’re not off the hook just yet.

“We still need to keep money coming in, because I need to be able to go to council in May and say this is how much I’ve raised,” Doucette said. “And that’s when I hope to receive the confirmation that we’re staying open.”