2021 Year in Review: Randy Huwa, Executive Vice President

It’s time to look back on 2021! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2021 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

So … a year-end recollection. Let’s see. A memorable day for 2021. The gala, perhaps, or an eagle release?

Last month, Lindsay Crouse had a column in The New York Times titled “You Can Make Any Day the Best Day of the Year”, writing,

     On New Year’s Eve when I was in my late 20s, I would ask my friends to reflect on our best days of the year, the times when we had the most fun, felt the most grateful or were happiest.

     Sometimes they were the days we expected. Parties, vacations, weddings. But more often, the real best days in hindsight weren’t the obvious ones. They were marked by the ordinary …

So … for this year’s recollection, I’m going to share my memories of a wonderful, ordinary day in 2021.

October 27.

[That’s the birth date of Theodore Roosevelt in 1858 and, in 2014, the day Taylor Swift released her album 1989. You probably knew that Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt were related — fifth cousins, actually. But did you know that Taylor Swift is the sixth cousin, once removed, of FDR?  See … everything is related.]

During these COVID days, I’ve been working almost exclusively from home. October 27 was one of the days that I went to the Center.   It was a Wednesday – a nice day. The high temperature that day in Waynesboro was a pleasant 66 degrees.

It was an ordinary Wildlife Center day.

While our resident turtles – Emma, Sheldon, and Wilson – were enjoying the autumn sunshine and a refreshing “soak”, the outreach team was doing a “deep clean” of the turtles’ enclosures.

Amanda was getting ready for another round of filming for Untamed: Life is Wild [look for the premiere of Season Four in April 2022.]

Kai was shooting a video on stress – in humans, and in patients. He had just joined the Center staff a few weeks earlier and was getting into the rhythm of the Center. At one point, he asked me if I would be part of his video – I think I feigned stress, and he [fortunately] found other, more suitable participants. [You may check out Kai’s final product here.]

Kelsey, the leader of our bear-care team, was preparing meals for our five cubs. The bears were then in hyperphagia, a period of intense food consumption in preparation for the “lean” days of winter.   That means that Kelsey and crew were putting together 125 pounds of food a day – high-quality fruits and vegetables, nuts, mealworms, fish, etc. These meals were generally packed into large brown paper bags and tossed over the fence into the half-acre Bear Yard – two rounds of brown-bag lunch service per day.

The wildlife health team was caring for some 80 animals. That included five Red-tailed Hawks, three Eastern Screech Owls, and three American Crows. Two Bald Eagles. Twenty-seven squirrels and 21 Woodland Box Turtles. And those aforementioned five Black Bear cubs.

Dr. Karra was racing to pull together virtual presentations for the Center’s upcoming Call of the Wild conference. Her topics:

Fluid Therapy in Wildlife [lecture]
Fluid Therapy in Wildlife [demonstration]
Not Fit for Human Consumption: Drug Withdrawal Times and Prohibited Medications

[That Conference – online again in 2021 – drew some 400 participants.]

Nicole was packing up boxes of items purchased by donors in the Center’s online auction, shipping treasures to winning bidders across the country.   I actually picked up a few items that my wife and I had purchased at the auction, including jewelry, some nature artwork, and an illustration from a New Yorker feature piece on the classic TV show The Office.

We had an afternoon emergency–response planning meeting with a member of our Board – to help us anticipate what we would do in the event of a fire/flood/ice storm/wind storm/rain storm/snowstorm. Most memorable takeaway: an observation attributed to General [later President] Eisenhower – plans are worthless, but planning is everything.

It was the final day for pre-orders for the 2022 edition of the Garden of Eagles calendar … and there was a rush of “late-bird” orders. One kind supporter bought a bunch of the calendars as gifts for my staff colleagues.

At one point during the day, I went out back to check on the Great Rebuild construction and to spend a few minutes with some of our education animals. Did you know that Hudson the Gyrfalcon is really loud? Did you know that Maggie the Peregrine Falcon is even louder?

That day, the Center received a distribution from the estate of Anita Dec, a longtime supporter. I’ve written about her before.

And, throughout the day, the help-desk phone just kept ringing, with calls about wild animals in trouble. One of the animals admitted that day – a Red-shouldered Hawk hit by a car in Albemarle County – is still in our care. Fingers crossed for its continued recovery.

ALL of this activity – on this random, ordinary day, and on every day of the year – was made possible through the support of caring and generous donors.

That includes our year-end givers and our Caring for Critters sponsors and those who help us with online fundraising challenges.

That includes the individuals who made special contributions to help us with The Great Rebuild.

That includes the folks who generously sponsored our annual Gala this year – it was a virtual event, and they didn’t even get a cube of cheese for their sponsorships.

And that includes the individuals who try to make sure that we have a Critter Cam sponsor for every day of the year … and who sometimes will do a sponsorship of National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day or some other zany observance just to help us out.

I’ve been astounded every day of the year by the generosity and partnership of friends across the country. They make possible our ordinary extraordinary days at the Wildlife Center. And, each and every day, I’m grateful.

— Randy Huwa, Executive Vice President

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!