Maggie Peacock just wants what’s best for the endangered animals of the world.
A fifth grader this past year at Lipan Elementary, Maggie founded a club called Volunteers Operating In Cooperation with Endangered Species, or V.O.I.C.E.S. She wrote a letter to the staff at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center and included a check for $143 from her club’s Wildlife Week, where Maggie and company had placed donation boxes at stores and restaurants in Lipan.
“I sent the letter after the fire they had at the gift shop and told them the money could either be used to help with the animals or for the gift shop,” she said. “I told them what V.O.I.C.E.S. was currently working on. When I sent the letter, we were doing a 5k marathon for the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and were building a pond and garden at our school.
“We were also making an endangered animal video for a summer camp our school was going to hold. I told them the money was a little late because we’d been a little busy with these things, but I hoped the gift shop would be okay.”
Warren Lewis, director of marketing at Fossil Rim, was impressed when he read Maggie’s letter.
“It’s not that often you receive a handwritten letter and a donation check from a fifth grader and her group,” Lewis said. “Because of that, we want to support that group and encourage them to continue to do what they do for endangered species. We understand the importance of giving back to the community.”
Lewis decided Maggie and her V.O.I.C.E.S. group should get a special early morning tour of Fossil Rim June 9.
“We get two or fewer letters similar to that per year,” he said. “In unique situations like that, you want to embrace their motivation to continue the good things they’re doing.”
While the tour ended up being for Maggie, two other club members, her mother, two sisters and her teacher, V.O.I.C.E.S. consists of nine children age 11-13. It turned out to be a great day for the tour, considering it was only 63 degrees when tour guide Sara Paulsen began the drive through the facility.
“I was really excited we got to visit because it’s a cool place,” Maggie said.
During the tour through the 1,800-acre facility with more than 50 species of animals, Maggie frequently asked questions and enjoyed seeing everything from waterbucks to Mexican gray wolves to giraffes.
“I really love seeing animals that we don’t usually get to see,” Maggie said. “When they’re endangered species, that means not many people in the world get to see them.”
The group got the chance to have lunch with Dr. Pat Condy, executive director, at the Overlook Café.
“I wanted to ask him what Fossil Rim is currently doing and the ways they’re helping the endangered species,” Maggie said. “What ways can we help, too?”
Maggie felt compelled to find strength in numbers when it came to helping endangered species.
“I always really loved animals, but I just thought we can make more of a difference as a group of people,” she said. “We could spread awareness of the endangered animals that needed help. It felt really cool to have others want to join V.O.I.C.E.S. because I did a lot of presentations, and then lots of other people started to care.
“More people can make a bigger difference. I don’t want to just help spread awareness for my age group, so we also taught little kids during the school year.”
Maggie said doing research on the animals and holding fundraisers are key aspects of her club.
“We hang posters around the school campus and talk about the threats to wildlife,” she said. “We met every Thursday during the school year, but during June we’re meeting every Monday.”
The pride Maggie’s mother, Sunshine Peacock, has in her daughter’s selfless cause is evident.
“For each meeting, she puts together lesson plans with activities to teach the group about a particular animal or environmental issue,” Sunshine said. “She always likes to make sure they’re learning something.”
Maggie learned something new, too. When a little girl has a lot to say about how important protecting endangered animals is, the people of Fossil Rim are listening with smiles of approval.