Louisville Zoo Announces “Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies” Program Partnership

CONTACT: Kyle Shepherd
502-238-5331 (Media Cell 502-744-5639)
kyle.shepherd@louisvilleky.gov

LOUISVILLE (January 4, 2022)  – Today, the Louisville Zoo announced the “Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies” program partnership as part of Christopher 2X’s Game Changers organization. “Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies” is an initiative created to explore the healing and therapeutic power of animals with young kids in our community who have experienced secondary trauma from violence.

Using the One Health approach — a public health initiative that strives to understand the connection between humans, animals and the environment — the partnership aims to highlight how we are all interconnected with each other, the animals and our planet — and how empathy is at the foundation of that connection.

“Christopher 2X is building upon the great beginnings of his Future Healers program with an important and unique second step,” said Mayor Greg Fischer.  “Partnering with the Louisville Zoo, some of the Future Healers of varying ages will learn about building relationships with animals and their habitats, forming connections in an experience also designed to foster empathy and self-esteem. For children who have felt the trauma of violence, I cannot imagine a more beautiful and rewarding experience than to explore their place in the world by learning about and working with animals. Well done, all.”

“Partnerships like this ‘Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies’ and the Future Healers partnership with UofL Health are so very important,” said Christopher 2X. “The healing value to our children and their parents is paramount. Spending time learning about the animal kingdom and our role in planetary health through the lens of empathy will be a balm for these kids who suffer from secondary trauma and help to alleviate some of the challenges these kids face every day. What we envision is for these kids to become humanitarian advocates.”

Seventeen of the 50 Future Healers were handpicked by Christopher 2X to be a part of the “Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies” program. These 17 kids will meet at the Zoo for exclusive educational programs, camps and behind-the-scenes opportunities each year that emphasize this “One Health, One Planet” concept. All 50 Future Healers will visit the Zoo as well.

“Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies” curriculum will engage the “little healer buddies” ages 4 to 8 in focused activities to learn about empathy for each other and for animals. The “big healer buddies” ages 9 to 13 will be working on conservation action projects that exhibit our reliance on each other and our planet for our maximized health and well-being. The umbrella concept is that we have one mind, one body, one life and one planet.

“We believe ‘Future Healers Got Zoo Buddies’ is the first of its kind,” said Louisville Zoo Executive Director Dan Maloney. “Your Zoo is already a safe resource for all families to connect with nature and animals in meaningful ways, and this program emphasizes inclusion and engagement for everyone. We are all interconnected. We all depend on one another, and we can all positively impact the world we share. We hope these young people grow up with us, become part of our Zoo family, and create a lifetime of memories while learning more about the remarkable value of wildlife and wild places.”

“We all know the therapeutic nature of animals and of being outside and in nature from our own experiences,” said Louisville Zoo Assistant Director for Conservation, Education and Collections Steve Taylor. “This program seems like a very natural, highly emphasized extension of what we already know to be true. Getting to know these kids one-on-one and building these relationships with their families is going to be quite special.”

“Adding this supplemental curriculum to Future Healers is a perfect complement to our existing Healers medical component, said Dr. Christopher Jones, Transplant Surgeon at UofL Health. “Both arms of the program take different approaches but have a unified goal of helping the kids heal.”

“The Zoo leg of Future Healers takes the kids out of their everyday lives and puts them into a relaxing and natural environment, allowing them to forget their challenges for a few moments and to connect with nature. Our program takes a little bit of a different approach by addressing personal health, safety, and wellbeing but the programs are beautifully complementary,” said Dr. Keith Miller, Trauma Surgeon at UofL Health. “We both share the same overriding goal — helping these kids to be healthy.”

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About the Louisville Zoo

The Louisville Zoo, a non-profit organization and state Zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).

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