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Volunteer Rita Jackson helps others enjoy their visit to the Oklahoma Aquarium.

Rita Jackson has volunteered at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks for the past 10 years.
by Bryan Painter Published: November 16, 2013

The Oklahoma Aquarium has bull sharks and nurse sharks.

Paddlefish, peacock bass, porcupine puffers and more can be seen at various places in the building.

Don't forget the river otters, beavers and raccoons.

With all the fish and a few other animals, why wouldn't Rita Jackson want to volunteer at the Oklahoma Aquarium in Jenks? That's the way she looks at it. And while she loves the creatures with fins as well as those with fur, Jackson especially enjoys the thousands of individuals who come to see them.

For four hours each Wednesday, she can be found grinning and possibly laughing while working at the information booth.

Vanessa Cormier of the Oklahoma Aquarium said, “Rita always comes to the aquarium with a smile on her face and is always eager to help guests to make sure they have a great time.”

Never mind the wheelchair Jackson is sitting in. She doesn't. The 32-year-old has a genetic disease called McCune-Albright syndrome. It affects Jackson's bones, especially her legs. But not her personality or love for greeting and meeting others.

“I just don't let it hold me back,” Jackson said. “Because I've had some tough days with it, but I go as much as I possible can. My mom can attest to that.

“She'll say, ‘Rita you need to slow down.' I just try not to be a homebody.”

About 10 years ago, Jackson's mother suggested that her daughter volunteer at the aquarium and took her there for a visit. After looking around for a little while, the decision was, “Yes. I love it.”

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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