It’s time to look back on 2016! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2016 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.
As we close in on the end of 2016, like many other people, I will not be sorry to see this year go away. Our nation has faced a lot of challenges during the year, and our society has had to endure more than enough political turmoil and acrimony to do us for a lifetime. In the midst of this tumultuous year, there have been a number of internal and external events that will have an impact on the Wildlife Center of Virginia for years to come—fortunately, most in a very positive.
For me, there are a couple of truly special things that will have me remembering 2016 in a positive way.
In June, upon the occasion of my 65th birthday (which, by the way, is not one of the things I consider to be a highlight!), the Center planned a weekend-long series of events to mark my personal milestone … and basically keep my mind off of the fact that I’m now on Medicare!! We had a great big party weekend, with music from my two favorite genres—Jimmy Buffett and John Denver!
On the night of my actual birthday, Tom and Michelle Becker, good friends from Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, brought their wonderful trop-rock group, Latitude, to the Barren Ridge Winery for a good old-fashioned birthday bash. Friends from across the nation came in to join the fun, sporting flowery Hawaiian shirts, flip-flops, and drinks with little umbrellas in them. It was a grand evening, full of fellowship, laughter, and memories. The crowning event was the premier showing of a video created by my WCV colleagues that did a pretty good job of spoofing me, and reminding me of how momentous the last 34 years have been, since I co-founded the Wildlife Center of Virginia. I was laughing so hard I could hardly breathe, but tears of joy and fond memories were flowing, as well. What a night.
The next day, June 5, Tom and Michelle were joined by the rest of their band and the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra for a glorious tribute to John Denver. While we all anticipated a good concert, none of us anticipated the actual magic that filled the newly renovated Wayne Theatre that Sunday afternoon. Tom literally brought John Denver and his music to life and filled a nearly sold-out audience with wonderful emotions and compelling memories. Not many folks know that I actually knew John Denver for a long time before his tragic death, and worked with him on many conservation causes. His music remains an inspiration to me. The concert was simply incredible. Fortunately, it was filmed by WVPT, the local public television station, so we will be offering DVDs of the event just after the first of the year. It was so well-received, we are planning an encore concert of the show, Back Home Again—A Tribute to John Denver, on October 6, 2017, so make plans now to join us.
The most wonderful and gratifying aspect of the birthday weekend—dubbed Clarkfest by my colleagues—was the truly touching warmth and generosity of so many people, not just to me, but toward the entire Wildlife Center family. It was almost worth turning 65, Medicare notwithstanding.
A couple of other notable things that leave me feeling good about 2016 was the recruitment of Dr. Ernesto Dominguez and Dr. Peach Van Wick to be the two new postdoctoral interns at WCV. While we have had many wonderful and talented veterinarians come through our training programs, seldom have we had two people join the family who have added more skill, dedication, and just good fun to our work environment. Maintaining a positive workplace is important to our whole team, but these two have added more than their fair share. We warn all new staff members that, if they can’t take a joke, WCV is not the place they should work. Little did we know that both Dr. Ernesto and Dr. Peach have postgraduate degrees in pranks and good humor! Laughter makes a tough job a lot easier, and these two have certainly added a great deal to our family.
At the end of 2016, we learned that Dr. Dave McRuer, our longest-serving Director of Veterinary Services, will be leaving us in early 2017 to return home to Canada with his wife and son, to be closer to their families. While we will certainly miss Dr. Dave, whenever we make a change in our senior leadership—especially in such a key position-- it always opens up some new possibilities for the Wildlife Center.
We anticipate many new and exciting developments in our animal care and professional training programs in the coming year, as well as in our Outreach Department. We have a lot of plans on the drawing board, and we know there will be some great things coming.
One thing to which I am already looking forward is the celebration of the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Wildlife Center of Virginia. As of November 9, 2017, WCV will have been in operation for three and half decades!!! We are already making plans for a month-long jubilee, so stay tuned … the best is yet to come.
Happy New Year to everyone!