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NWRA Symposium 2007 ~ Silver Anniversary
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Chicago, IL

By Fran Feeney

The Silver Anniversary Celebration of the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA) was impressive to say the least. In mid–March, 561 people from 43 states and Canada came together at the beautiful Indian Lakes Resort in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois.

Sponsors and supporters for the Anniversary Symposium included—IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), Mazuri, Willowbrook Wildlife Foundation, and Elaine Thrune. Their generosity helped make this conference a tremendous success. A symposium of this quality and magnitude would not be possible without the tireless efforts of Barbara Suto and the conference committee. In addition, countless numbers of volunteers were called upon throughout the week to follow through on endless details to keep the program flowing.

Field trips to the Brookfield Zoo and Willowbrook Wildlife Center were well attended and enjoyed. The always–popular Introduction to Wildlife Rehabilitation Seminar was a must for beginning or rusty rehabilitators.

The Tuesday evening Ice Breaker Reception was an opportunity to meet new members, new friends, and greet old friends. Challenging quiz stations were set up around the room and teams of rehabilitators went from station to station trying to solve the elusive questions. A highlight of the evening was the introduction of five of the founding NWRA board members from 25 years ago. They were then put to work cutting and serving an enormous anniversary cake that was baked and handsomely decorated with a multitude of icing animals by Willowbrook Wildlife Center, Erica Miller, and Wendy Fox.

The Opening Session on Wednesday morning began with greetings and opening remarks by NWRA President, Lessie Davis. Our keynote speaker James L. Pease PhD, from Iowa State University, talked about the importance of ensuring that wildlife and wild places are part of our lives now and into the future. Dr. Pease encouraged the audience to expose all children to wild things and wild places as much as possible. This was a very thought–provoking talk.

Next, we were entertained by the musical talents of Douglas Wood and his group. Douglas has written 22 books and countless songs, including NWRAs theme song, Wild Again. His new composition, In Our Hands, was written to commemorate NWRAs Silver Anniversary. The three talented musicians presented a very touching rendition of Earth Songs and Earth Stories that are a compilation of Wood’s original songs about nature. Then there was a short membership meeting during which President, Lessie Davis, brought the members up to speed on current organization events and information and handed out many door prizes to lucky winners.

The array of offerings was astonishing with more than 100 presentations on every imaginable topic. In addition, the 14 hands–on workshops (seven different subjects) were extremely popular choices.

The Special NWRA 25th Anniversary Presentation on Thursday evening featured noted author and illustrator David Allen Sibley. Birds have been an important part of David’s entire life. He is the author and illustrator of several guides and publications, most notably The Sibley Guide to Birds, the fastest–selling bird guide of all time. After his talk, Mr. Sibley very patiently signed hundreds of his books for what seemed like an endless line of people.

The Awards Banquet was quite the gala event. MCs Jeannie Lord and Dr. Mark Mitchell kept the evening moving along with plenty of laughs, entertainment, and handing out hundreds of raffle and door prize items. The silent auction tables were full of treasures. Grants, scholarships, achievement awards, and tributes were presented to deserving recipients. The prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Susan Kelly of the Peninsula Humane Society, San Mateo, CA. The banquet was a celebration of some of the important achievers in the wildlife rehabilitation field.

It’s difficult to place a value on perhaps the most important products of this Symposium. Contacts, networking, and even life–long friendships are natural outgrowths of a well–planned, dynamic meeting of like–minded people. As dedicated wildlife rehabilitators, we want the very best for the animals in our care. We also can help each other grow in our profession.


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