One of Sara Hurt's passions is taking photographs, especially of animals.
That's one reason Hurt has become a frequent visitor to the Oklahoma City Zoo, visiting six times last summer alone. She enjoys photographing the diverse array of animals, and she also sees it as a way to give back.
Hurt is a professional photographer, and she sells her photos to help raise money for a zoo hospital project.
“I've always been a big animal lover, and the facility they have now is very small and they have a lot of animals,” she said. “When you see it you can definitely see the need for a larger clinic.”
Hurt specializes in photos of newborns and senior pictures. She has also taken photos of dogs and cats for rescue organizations.
“I love spending time at the zoo and it's a great way to give back and take pictures of something different,” she said.
The hospital project will cost an estimated $9 million. ZooFriends executive director Dana McCrory said about 80 percent of that has been raised.
The 22,000-square-foot facility will provide more kennel space and separate spaces for food preparation that can be logged by computer and displayed on LCD monitors. It will also be an interactive experience for visitors who will be able to view some procedures from a gallery inside the hospital.
The campaign began with a $1 million pledge from the Kirkpatrick Foundation. The zoo has contributed an additional $4.5 million. McCrory said an additional $700,000 will be needed to meet the goal.
ZooFriends sent out 100,000 pieces of direct mail to Oklahoma City residents seeking donations. McCrory said donations have come in from a diverse group of zoo fans.
“We had a child who sent us a picture of a lion that he drew with a $5 bill taped inside and he wrote ‘I hope you can build a new hospital for the animals and maybe my allowance can help,'” McCrory said. “We've seen donations from people of all ages and many from kids who just want to do something to help the animals they love seeing. The generosity of people never ceases to amaze me.”
McCrory said the mail campaign was aimed at raising money, but also raising awareness about the zoo and one of its most important facilities.
“I think people are fascinated by the care that we give to our animals,” she said. “So many didn't realize that we had vets on staff at the zoo. When the new hospital is built, we'll be moving it closer to the people who visit so they can see some of the care the animals receive.”