Group that runs San Diego Zoo, Safari Park receives $6M donation

Donation is largest gift in its history

SAN DIEGO - The organization that runs the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park announced Thursday it received a $6 million donation -- the largest gift in its history.

San Diego Zoo Global officials said the gift from the Price Family Charitable Fund will help expand a program designed to benefit underprivileged children at San Diego County schools.

"This transformative donation will allow us to do additional in-school assemblies focusing on water conservation and native wildlife and San Diego County ecosystems,"  San Diego Zoo Global President and CEO Doug Myers said. "We already host more than 275,000 schoolchildren each year and are delighted at the opportunity to increase our conservation education."

There are 153 disadvantaged schools in the San Diego Unified School District, and over 500 in the county. The money will be used to include up to 45,000 more students in its programs each year and provide bus transportation to programs at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The donation will expand the zoo's existing free education programs to 4th graders, adding over 45,000 more students each year.

The Price family patriarch, Sol Price, founded Price Club, which eventually became Costco.

According to Robert Price, the donation was made "so that they can fulfill the same dreams in their lives that every other child would have."

A portion of the donation will be used to fund the Price Education Center's permanent headquarters for all programs for disadvantaged students.

"Hands-on learning is one of the most important opportunities we can provide for our students," state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said. "It's engaging, it's relevant and it's fun, all of which combine in a way that really connects young people with their education. It's wonderful to see partners in all sectors coming together to invest in our kids, their futures and the future of our state."

At the zoo Thursday, third graders from Dingeman Elementary School in Scripps Ranch got an up close and personal look at an anteater.

"I'm going to learn about how to save the Earth and how to save some animals," said student Bella Hansen.

Now, thanks to the large donation, she won't be alone.

"They could get more animals maybe, and get more kids to come and learn," said Bella.

Kids who attend disadvantaged schools and might not have the chance to visit otherwise will now be able to experience what the zoo has to offer.

"You know, this is huge," said Dingeman Elementary School third-grade teacher Sara Church.

Dingeman Elementary is not a disadvantaged school, but Church was a teacher at such an elementary school a few years ago.

"The impact it had on those children's life, it really made a difference and so their gift goes so far beyond I think those children will remember that gift for the rest of their lives," said Church.

The zoo recently created a television channel for patients at Rady Children's Hospital and their families at the adjacent Ronald McDonald House. The channel, funded by philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, airs educational pieces, video encounters of popular animals, the Panda Cam and other live videos.

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