By Heather Welch
Petting zoo benefits pro-life outreach, mothers
It’s a lot of work, but Kristin Meyer says she doesn’t worry much because it’s all for the babies. For the last 15 years, she and her husband Ivan have operated a petting zoo with all proceeds benefitting the St. Anthony Pro-Life Outreach of St. Anthony of Padua parish in Garden Plain.
Fifteen years ago the Garden Plain chamber asked the Meyers, who own a farm near the town and are members of St. Anthony’s Respect Life Committee, to bring animals to their annual Fourth of July celebration.
“It just grew and grew and grew from there, said Kristin. “We’ve tried and exchanged different animals over the years to find the best ones for the petting zoo.”
The zoo has visited over 100 events through the years including parish picnics, vacation bible schools and diocesan and community events.
“It is always chaos when we first start the season,” said Kristin. “New animals are not used to traveling – getting them in and out of the trailer can be challenging. They are much more unsettled then the veterans and it’s always memorable!”
The Meyers charge a fee to come to an event or at the zoo gate to pet the animals, and all proceeds are given to the Outreach which uses the money to purchase baby items for anyone in need.
In its “baby warehouse” next to St. Anthony’s church, the Outreach stores baby furniture and various other items from newborn to three years old. They collaborate with over 14 social service organizations in the Wichita area including Catholic Charities, A Better Choice, His Helping Hand, Birth Line, Youthville, Gerard House, The Tree House, and Hunter Health Clinic to provide for clients’ needs.
The goal of the outreach is to help all children in need, especially unborn children, whose parents may despair and think they have no way of supporting their baby and might otherwise turn to abortion. Last month alone, St. Anthony Pro-Life Outreach served 57 pregnant women, and this summer it gave away 100 baby cribs.
Kristin said that in addition to knowing that the work she does with the zoo goes to a good cause, it is seeing the faces, smiles and happiness that she enjoys the most. She said a favorite animal that makes children smile is Poker, a miniature horse.
“To see a child touch the animals or get on Poker to ride, maybe for the first time, is what I enjoy,” she said. “They are a little apprehensive at first, but they see other children do it and then they want to do it.”
Kristin and Ivan get up early every day to take care of the animals. They first tend to the larger ones with hay, feed, and water, and clean their corral. Then they move to the smaller cages. By selling their animals as they grow or near the end of a season, they are able to buy more feed and pay veterinarian bills.
In addition to the petting zoo, which Kristin says grows bigger each year, the St. Anthony parish Respect Life Committee also sponsors yearly Fill the Baby Bottle campaigns, where coin and cash donations are placed inside real baby bottles and baby showers, where participants come to support the work of the committee and listen to speakers instead of playing shower games.
“If a parish or group wants to learn more about the baby warehouse they are invited any time, said Kristin. ‘Then they can come out to the farm to see the animals!”