Just last Friday, September 23, 2011, the Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary of German Valley, IL, received the news that they’re getting a $50,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. Each month, Pepsi Refresh, run by Pepsi-Cola of North America, distributes 1.2 million dollars, granted for the ideas to “refresh our world” that receive the most online votes within that month. Anyone can submit an idea at www.RefreshEverything.com.
Every day this past August, thousands of loyal Critter Camp fans from across the country logged in, voted and entered the “power vote codes” found on specially marked Pepsi products. As a result, Critter Camp’s entry finished in the top ten. Once Critter Camp Director Beth Randall completed paperwork and other details, Pepsi announced that Critter Camp is receiving this much-needed donation.
Critter Camp, a 501c3 non profit organization, is the only sanctuary of its kind in the U.S. Volunteer-operated, it cares for unadoptable small exotic pets (no cats, dogs, wildlife or farm animals), and is USDA and IDOA licensed. As Critter Camp Director Beth Randall explains her organization’s purpose: “Many shelters have no choice but to euthanize these creatures who have often survived horrible lives and end up aggressive or fearful … Pets such as hedgehogs, ferrets, parrots, lizards and even rabbits require far more care than the average cat or dog, care that unfortunately many people are not prepared to provide.”
Most of the animals for which Critter Camp provides a safe haven cannot be adopted for various reasons: elderly, chronically ill, aggressive or excessively fearful. With guaranteed additional funding of $50,000, Critter Camp can continue to accept and support small, unadoptable pets from shelters that would otherwise put them down. Animals like Oscar, a rabbit found covered with ticks in a garbage can in the city. For good reason, Oscar is fearful of people and thus not a good candidate for another family’s home. Now Oscar is safe in Critter Camp’s free range Bunny Haven, enjoying the company of 30 other rescued domestic rabbits.
Besides helping with the care of more than 300 abandoned and abused pets already living at the sanctuary, the $50,000 Pepsi Refresh award will also allow the organization to accept another 100 animals and to purchase land for a proposed new facility. This will not only provide a home for up to 1,000 small animals, but also allow room for an adoption center, spay/neuter clinics, and greatly expanded educational opportunities. The new facility will incorporate solar- and wind-energy generation and other “green” building and operating methods. Critter Camp is investigating possible locations near Freeport on U.S. Route 20.
Even in its current German Valley location, Critter Camp draws about 1,000 people a year, from as far away as Texas, Canada, and even Ethiopia, for hands-on educational tours. This week alone, Critter Camp is giving educational presentations to a homeschool group in Rockford on Tuesday, and in Freeport at Parkview Home on Friday.
The new facility will provide welcome to tens of thousands of visitors a year, thus educating more people on the specific needs of these unusual pets, as well as bringing tourism dollars to northwest Illinois. With this grant as seed money, Critter Camp expects funding for the remainder of the project to come from other grants, donations and sponsorships. Watch Critter Camp’s website www.crittercamp.org for details on the capitol campaign as it develops.