JENKS — 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.”
Jackson has had to take some time off since starting, but even with that, she has been an active volunteer for roughly nine of the 10 years.
In that span, Jackson has worked in some of the Oklahoma Aquarium's eight galleries, including the Coral Reef gallery.
But now she volunteers at the information desk each Wednesday.
“I pass out maps to the aquarium,” she said. “I tell about the different fish and the different animals.”
And sharing information is a perfect fit for a self-described “people person.”
“I see a lot of people that maybe wouldn't come to the gallery I'd be at,” Jackson said. “So, just getting to see people and getting to talk with them is really fun.
“Some of the people we've had come in have been from like Europe and Egypt, and one of our volunteers was from Pakistan.”
Some visitors are on vacation, others on field trips. She's just glad they came and thrilled they stopped by to ask her about what they are about to experience.
Jackson said, “What I do is just fun and very relaxing.”