Louisville Zoo Volunteer Awards

The Louisville Zoo’s mission is to better the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in conservation education.

Volunteers are integral to this goal as we educate, entertain and involve diverse groups of people from all walks of life. It takes work, dedication and many, many helping hands to make your Louisville Zoo a world-class, award-winning destination for family fun.

Jonathon Michael Heaton Award

This award is given out each year to an outstanding youth volunteer.  The award is named after Jonathon Michael Heaton who gave over 3,000 volunteer hours to the Zoo before passing away in 1999 from a heart attack, due to a congenital heart condition.  His dedication and memory are kept alive through this award.

(left to right) Dan Maloney, Diane Taylor, Susan Norman

2023 Winner

We are thrilled to announce Lyric P. Bentley as the deserving winner of the 2023 Jonathon Michael Heaton Outstanding Youth Award. As a dedicated teen volunteer at the Zoo since April 2019, Lyric’s contributions have been invaluable. From diligently preparing diets and handling daily supplies in the commissary to washing dishes and assisting with various tasks, Lyric’s commitment and hard work have not gone unnoticed. Beyond her regular duties, she has also been an active member of the Louisville Zoo Youth Board, eagerly participating in all activities and showing unwavering support for the Zoo. Lyric’s friendly and informative interactions with Zoo guests have left a positive and lasting impression on everyone she encounters. Her passion for volunteering extends to working with camp activities, exemplifying her dedication to enriching the Zoo experience for all visitors. We are proud to honor Lyric for her outstanding service and selfless contributions to our Zoo community.

Diane Taylor Spirit Award

The award is named after Coordinator of Volunteers, Diane Taylor for her 30+ years of service.  It recognizes an adult volunteer who exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism through service and dedication.

Pictured above are members of Jonathon Michael Heaton’s family as well as Lyric Bentley;  Zoo Director, Daniel Maloney; and Coordinator of Volunteers, Diane Taylor

2023 Winner

We are delighted to announce Susan Norman as the recipient of the prestigious 2023 Diane Taylor Spirit Award. This award recognizes an adult volunteer whose service and dedication to the Zoo and its mission “to better the bond between people and our planet” truly exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism. For over two decades, Susan has been an unwavering and dedicated Raptor Docent at the zoo, committing her time every week to the ambassador raptors. Her skilled presentations and vast knowledge have educated and inspired countless visitors, from young campers to elderly nursing home residents. Beyond her commitment to the Zoo, Susan’s altruism extends to the Oldham County Humane Society, showcasing her compassion for all animals. Her kindness and thoughtfulness towards her fellow volunteers also make her a truly exceptional person. Susan Norman’s remarkable service and devotion make her a most deserving recipient of this award.

Pictured above are members of Jonathon Michael Heaton’s family as well as Lilly Hotkewitz;  Zoo Director, Daniel Maloney; and Coordinator of Volunteers, Diane Taylor

The 2022 winner is Lilly Hotkewitz.  She was nominated by Gorilla Forest keeper Alexis Williamson who said, “Lily has gone above and beyond in her volunteer duties. Never needing to be guided, she always finds things to do until staff assigns her another task. She started as a teen volunteer in the summer of 2017 but chose to continue volunteering on the weekends once school went back into session. She has been an invaluable asset as a volunteer and as a member of the Louisville Zoo Youth Board.”

Pictured above Zoo Director Dan Maloney, Emeritus Docent Kathy Nuss and Coodinator of Volunteers Diane Taylor.

The 2022 Diane Taylor Spirit Award winner is Katy Nuss. Kathy has amassed over 15,500 volunteer hours as an Emeritus Docent. The commissary staff said, “Kathy always comes in with a big smile on her face and is always eager to help with whatever duties we assign. She’s a fast learner and isn’t afraid to ask questions. She is a big help and a joy to have in the commissary; she makes our days better with her joyful personality.”


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Below, see a list of award-winning volunteers who have been recognized for their outstanding volunteer work at the Louisville Zoo!

Diane Taylor Spirit Award Winners

Lawrence Smith2005
Allen Mikel2006
Judith Tucker2007
Lynzi Mikel2008
Anne Ramsey2009
Karen Nelson2010
Trudy Fischer2010
Terry Feathers2011
Marvin Snyder2012
Michael Mathis2013
Anthony Schneider2014
Keith Watson2015
Rebecca Bockelman2016
Donald Blanton2017
David Bonham2018
Susan Allen2018
Chris Ramser2019
Mark Goeing2020
Wanda & William Jackson2021
Kathy Nuss2022
Susan Norman2023

Jonathan Michael Heaton Winners

Leslie Edington1999
Peter Lindle2000
Sean Cooper2001
Allen Mikel2002
Natasha Rodgers2003
Allen Mikel2004
Noah Carl2005
Davor Kusec2006
Trae Marr2007
Stanley Strader2008
Rachel Pardee2009
Tyler Hardin2010
Mary Kaelin2011
Christian Perkins2012
Joshua McVicker2012
Rebekah Carson2013
Michelle Boyken2014
Kun Lin2015
Savannah Robinson2016
Carl Grief2017
Jacob Brady2018
Jasmine Benningfield2019
Andrew John Chumbley2020
Nikolas (Niko) Jones2021
Lily Hotkewitz2022
Lyric P. Bentley2023