Archive for August, 2010

Saving Turtles and Remembering Rocky
August 31, 2010

It is one of the faces of the Gulf oil disaster, and one that Pittsburgh has been helping through the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium. One that you can still help through August 31st. The Zoo is competing for a 25 thousand dollar grant that is being awarded by the Pepsi Refresh Project. The Project  is $1.3 million for support of projects and communities in the Gulf in the wake of the BP spill. And what a horrible wake it has been for thousands of hard-working families. Not to mention a host of species , some of which are endangered.

Here is the link where you can still vote through today (August 31).

This is Dr. Ginger Takle, who spent several weeks in the Gulf, rescuing and rehabilitating sea turtles covered and filled with oil. She was at the Audubon Aquatics Center , part of the Audubon Nature Institute near New Orleans. Ginger was there for 2 weeks in July. The vast majority of those turtles treated were Kemps Ridley, the most critically endangered of all the sea turtle species. Ginger and the Zoo were part of a nationwide effort that included veterinarians and vet techs from zoos around the country. The effort continues with the drive for the grant, to bring sea turtles here to the Zoo’s Aquarium to continue their rehabilitation, and then re-introduce them to their natural habitat.

And as we in the Pittsburgh strive to help bring new life to animals in another region, animal lovers here are mourning the loss of a favorite at the Pittsburgh Zoo–Rocky.

Rocky came to the Zoo from Cleveland 27 years ago, when he was a year-old cub. He had to be put down two weeks ago because of the crippling arthritis that had made it almost impossible for him to move. Media outlets around the city, and zoo faithful paid tribute, not only to

the magnificent 1200 pound Kodiak (whose species is native to Alaska), but to the special keeper, Mo Brown, who was his buddy the last 11 1/2 years.

One of the special memories I will have is spending an afternoon with Rocky and Mo three years ago. This photo was taken right after I had fed Rocky one of his favorite foods–grapes!  He took them so gently from my fingers, and the experience left me breathless. His head was massive. Mo was with him the day he and Dr. Stephanie James put him to sleep, and Mo kissed that great big head goodbye. Rocky is buried at the International Conservation Center in Somerset County, a beautiful wild area that is a fitting resting place for Mo’s beloved bear.


Meet Tassy
August 17, 2010

This is Tassy Filsaime.  A 19 year-old Haitian earthquake  survivor who is, in the midst of the horror of crushed homes, lives, and unimaginable poverty, trying to survive cancer. Why does he matter? Because it is a lesson that one life always matters. The young man who is bringing him to our attention here in Pittsburgh and beyond , knows this, and is asking us to believe it with him.

So meet Ian Rosenberger. He is a former  “Survivor”  contestant, but he doesn’t really want to talk about that. The surviving he is focusing on are the people of Haiti, whom he decided he had to touch personally, by going there. How many of us think of it, but decide to send the money, and let someone else do it. Ian is the someone else, and what he needs is simple, and actually easy for those of us who need a face for the cause.

Ian met Tassy at a church he was visiting. Tassy was a voice in the church choir, and did he have a voice, according to Ian. Ian learned that the deformity on Tassy’s face was actually a cancerous tumor that is growing at a rapid rate. A rate that will kill him, if it is not removed. It was on Ian’s second trip to Haiti that Tassy approached Ian and asked for help. “Can you help me?” Ian’s response was , ” I don’t know, I hope so.”

But for Ian, hope means taking action. Back in Pittsburgh he called a lot of doctors, and as luck, or  God, would have it, a surgeon who had also donated time to Haiti, whom Ian knew, was a maxofacial surgeon at Allegheny General. The operation costs a half million dollars, but Dr. Jeb Blaugrund, and others have knocked down the price to 30 thousand. 30 thousand to save a life.

Ian is headed back to Haiti on August 19, to tell Tassy that the operation is a go, that he will come here to Pittsburgh. But there is still work to be done, and Ian has made it a party. On August 26th, at the Priory’s Grand Hall on the North Side, you can help Tassy with a celebration of Haitian art, music,and life, by attending A Night for Tassy.  For information check out our story that aired last week on our website:

I hope to see you there.