September 25, 2018

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Opinion

Zoo a 'happy place' for tireless volunteer

Ambassador reaches 650 hours of service in less than a year

Sandra Spragg is a committed volunteer. After less than a year of volunteering at Assiniboine Park and Zoo, the 53-year-old Westwood resident has already given more than 650 hours of service.

“I’m the type of person, when I commit to something, I commit,” says Spragg, who volunteers as an ambassador in the zoo. “I’m very passionate about it. It’s a happy place.”

Before she began volunteering, Spragg typically visited the zoo twice a year.

During one of her visits, she was fascinated by the information a zoo ambassador shared with her, so she inquired about volunteering.

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Sandra Spragg is a committed volunteer. After less than a year of volunteering at Assiniboine Park and Zoo, the 53-year-old Westwood resident has already given more than 650 hours of service.

"I’m the type of person, when I commit to something, I commit," says Spragg, who volunteers as an ambassador in the zoo. "I’m very passionate about it. It’s a happy place."

SUPPLIED</p><p>Sandra Spragg volunteers as an ambassador and northern Arctic interpreter at the Assiniboine Park Zoo when she’s not working full time as a chief warrant officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.</p>

SUPPLIED

Sandra Spragg volunteers as an ambassador and northern Arctic interpreter at the Assiniboine Park Zoo when she’s not working full time as a chief warrant officer in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Before she began volunteering, Spragg typically visited the zoo twice a year.

During one of her visits, she was fascinated by the information a zoo ambassador shared with her, so she inquired about volunteering.

She signed up last March and began volunteering last May.

Spragg works full time as a chief warrant officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. She credits the flexibility that Assiniboine Park volunteers have, as well as the ease with which they can sign up for shifts, with allowing her to rack up so many volunteer hours.

While Spragg’s primary role as a volunteer is assisting zoo guests, she is also trained as a northern Arctic interpreter, which allows her to walk around with items such as fox pelts and talk about them with people.

Spragg helps with special events, and she is trained to volunteer in the rest of Assiniboine Park as well.

"I love learning about all the different animals," she says. "I certainly have a different appreciation of the zoo with everything I’ve learned in the past year."

Sometimes, Spragg slips into volunteer mode even when she’s off-duty.

During a trip to the zoo as part of a work-related activity, Spragg shared her knowledge with her co-workers and then found herself helping other zoo visitors.

"I actually prefer being a volunteer to being a visitor," she says. "It’s way more exciting."

On a few occasions, Spragg has used vacation time to volunteer at special events at the zoo.

In addition to learning about the animals, Spragg says she enjoys volunteering because the staff are amazing, it’s a beautiful setting, it’s a way to relieve stress and the visitors are fun to interact with.

A few weeks ago, Spragg met a man who was visiting the zoo with his partner and their small child.

It turned out that the man was the pilot who flew the orphaned polar bear cubs that the zoo rescued in 2016 from Churchill to Winnipeg.

Spragg showed him where the bears were located, and he showed her pictures from when they were being transported in his aircraft.

"I was happy that I could help him, and he was happy to see that after almost two years, the bears were doing well," Spragg says. It’s interactions such as those that make Spragg look forward to her volunteer shifts.

"On Saturday mornings, I’m up earlier than Monday to Friday for work, and I’m excited that I’m going to the zoo," she says.

Assiniboine Park is looking for more volunteers who can help with a variety of duties around the park. Anyone interested is asked to apply online at assiniboinepark.ca/volunteer by May 31.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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