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6-year-old girl raises money to save Oakland Zoo amid pandemic struggles

Bay Area

CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. (KRON) — When a young girl in the East Bay learned that the Oakland Zoo was in danger of permanently closing due to the pandemic, she brainstormed ways to keep it open.​

A week later the online fundraiser she started with money from the tooth fairy has raised more than $28,000.

For the past week, 6-year-old Andy Soulard has been occupying her time in Castro Valley by making bracelets — tokens of appreciation to the donors she hopes may help save the Oakland Zoo.​

“Thank you for the donations,” Andy Soulard said.

Andy’s mother, Kelly says her daughter is a lifelong member of the zoo.​

Before the pandemic, the family would visit the more than 750 animals there at least once every couple of months.​

But shelter-in-place orders have kept the zoo closed since March and, last week, the president and CEO announced the property may have to permanently close if it’s not allowed to re-open this month.

“I was asking her can she imagine not being able to go see tigers and lions and bears in real life? And, only be able to see it on television or reading about it in a book,” Kelly Soulard said. it would have been a real travesty.”​

The zoo says operating expenses run about one million dollars a month and, it’s down to it’s last $3 million in reserve funds.​

Last week, Andy started a Facebook fundraiser for the Conservation Society of California, the non-profit organization that manages the zoo.​

“We started off the donations at a goal of $200, and Andy actually donated the first $5 that she had earned from the tooth fairy — she just lost her tooth,” Kelly Soulard said.

Within 24-hours, Andy had already raised $13,000.

And nearly a week later — more than 670 individual donors have contributed more than $28,000.

Andy is sending homemade bracelets to everyone who donates more than $25.

“Makes me feel happy,” she said.

“It costs $800,000 a year just to feed the animals alone, and so what I was telling Andy is you know what you raised so far, you’re able to feed every animal at the zoo for two weeks,” Kelly Soulard said. “So, I mean, it’s not too long, but its something at least.”​

The Soulards say the fundraiser will continue through the end of the month, before Andy resumes school.​

CLICK HERE to visit Andy’s fundraising Facebook page.

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