A Fond Farewell from Friends President

Janet Agostini Friends of the Zoo President & CEO

As you may have heard, I have announced my plan to retire as President and CEO of Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo on January 10, 2020.

This job has occupied the past 13 years of my career, and it been the best job ever! However, I do look forward to spending more time with family, including my own fur babies, and on community volunteer pursuits.

It has been a great privilege to lead the Friends organization and to serve the millions of guests who have visited the zoo, the creatures that have called the zoo home –and, of course, you, our wonderful members.

I am exceedingly grateful for all the hard work and creativity of the team at Friends of the Zoo that have helped establish one of the most effective partner organizations in the zoo and aquarium world. These are not accomplishments that a CEO makes alone – they are the accomplishments of a dedicated team who work together relentlessly for a common goal.

Among the accomplishments that give me the greatest satisfaction are:

  • Transforming an organization that was $2 million in debt when I arrived into a financially healthy, debt-free entity with over $6 million in our endowment fund.
  • Raising more than $30 million in earned and unearned revenue to support the zoo.
  • Conducting successful capital campaigns that brought great zoo improvements including the Helga Beck Asian Elephant Preserve, Primate Park and renovations to the zoo banquet facilities and gift shop.
  • Our recent campaign that raised $400,000 to fully fund a new exhibit for our family of Amur leopards.

I have loved my years at Friends of the Zoo, and it has been my pleasure to lead the team at this fine organization.  With a milestone year approaching, there’s a lot to look forward to — Among other highlights, 2020 will be the Friends of the Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s 50th anniversary year!

I hope you will continue to support the Friends with your membership and your contributions to your world-class zoo. Thank you for making my time here so very special.

My best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

Bring Your Plush Pal to the Teddy Bear Clinic at the Zoo!

Syracuse Zoo Teddy Bear Clinic sponsored by St. Joseph's Health Dr. Marsh
Janet Agostini Friends of the Zoo President & CEO

One of our favorite events is coming up on Monday, November 11 – the Teddy Bear Clinic sponsored by St. Joseph’s Health!

This special clinic invites children to bring their stuffed animals to the zoo for a checkup and “First Aid” by volunteer “vets” including actual medical staff from our sponsor, St. Joseph’s Health.

The Teddy Bear Clinic will be held 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Veterans Day off from school. It’s a great opportunity to introduce children to health care – and animal care — in a fun, familiar setting.

Check in at the zoo banquet room, where our “waiting room” will contain fun games and activities. When your name is called, come to the exam area where St. Joseph staff and zoo volunteers will be on hand to examine hundreds of plush pets and perform “surgery” on those suffering from excessive amounts of love. Then stop at the grooming area to spruce up your pet with a cute accessory.

St. Joseph’s Physicians Chief Operating Officer Julianne Himes said the health provider’s staff love volunteering at the Teddy Bear Clinic.

 “The Teddy Bear clinic is a fantastic opportunity for our doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and nurses to meet community members outside of a traditional health care setting,” she said.

“Most importantly, this event provides an excellent opportunity to introduce young children to health care and help them understand that interactions with health care providers are positive and alleviate any fears they may have.” The Teddy Bear Clinic is free with zoo admission – which is free for zoo members. If you’re not yet a member, please check out the options at syracusezooevents.org/members.

My best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo

Take a Child Outside!

Explorer's PlaySpace at Syracuse Zoo RGZ
Janet Agostini Friends of the Zoo President & CEO

The week of September 23-30 is national Take a Child Outside Week – and I can’t think of a better place to take a child outside than the zoo!

This special week aimed at connecting children to nature was founded in 2007 by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, and has since spread to over 250 parks, nature centers, zoos and museums around the country.

Friends of the Zoo joined this effort as a partner by pledging to offer opportunities for young people to be outside in nature, engage in nature play and appreciate the natural world.

When we built our Explorer’s PlaySpace in 2016, we did so for all these reasons – and because imaginative nature play is good for everyone, especially young children. Nature play spaces encourage children to engage in unstructured play that involves using their senses, imagination and creativity interacting with the natural world.

Explorer's PlaySpace at Syracuse Zoo RGZ

Child development studies indicate that nature play improves cognition and thinking, increases focus, decreases anxiety, builds confidence and helps prevent childhood obesity. It also helps develop a sense of wonder about the natural world that translates into a connection to and respect for green spaces, natural resources and wildlife.

For our part, the zoo will offer guided tours of our outdoor Wildlife Trail on Tuesday, September 24 and Thursday, September 26 at 10:30 a.m. – followed by facilitated play at our Explorer’s PlaySpace. The tour is suitable for all ages; meet at the gazebo in the zoo courtyard at 10:30 a.m. both days, weather permitting.

And of course, the PlaySpace is open and available for children to engage in nature play all year during zoo hours — So I invite you to Take a Child Outside at the zoo this week – and every week — as often as time and the weather allow.

My best,

Janet Agostini
President + CEO
Friends of the Zoo