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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Roo Doo’s Coming Soon

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Arkansas River Valley Business Directory

For 6 years, a wildlife park has been in the works in Greenwood. Due to cancer and COVID the park is still in the works, but it is still in the works!

Owner JR Wheeler and I recently had a great conversation about the park and the school book program he and his late wife, Kristen, began years ago.

Mr. Wheeler grew up in and around zoos. He shared he had been in every large ACA zoo by the time he was 9. His dad worked on zoo enclosures across the country and did animal transports all over the country. An Alabama zoo called in his father to help come up with a solution for giraffe hooves. As one can imagine, a giraffe isn’t likely to stand around and receive a pedicure. Traditionally the animal would be tranquilizer, but when they wake back up they often thrash and can injure themselves and anyone around. The solution was to create a raised area of concrete where the giraffes were turned for a couple hours each day. The concrete would file the hooves safely and effectively- no tranqs necessary.

The late Mrs. Kristen Wheeler had a passion for kids. She worked as a teacher, and helped J.R. come up with the idea of the zoo to bring the community together and give everyone something to do. As an extension of their zoo mission Kristen wanted to create a book program inspired by a seemingly troubled student she had that just wanted something of his own. The last two years proved troublesome for the program with Kristen losing her battle with cancer, and COVID closing schools down. The 2021-2022 school year holds hope that the book program will continue.

I asked J.R. how the public could help the wildlife park and the book program. He said the best thing for the park is word of mouth. This is an expensive and time consuming endeavor, the majority of the money is coming out of their own wallets. While they aren’t interested in donations, he said they would appreciate anyone who knows of grants they could apply for to receive funding contacting them and letting them know. The book program is based on donations, though, and even while not visiting schools the agreement with Scholastic has allowed them to continue buying books a discount and stockpile them for when school and library visits return. To contact Mr. Wheeler he said you may reach out to their Facebook page .

In talking to J.R. Wheeler even for just a short amount of time I learned a few things- he loves people, and he’s passionate about what he is working on. He shared ideas for the park, hopes he has for allowing those who need it most access to behind the scenes. He didn’t want to share for the publicity, it was simply just part of his goals. The impact it will have on people is what he is most excited about “not a pat on our back or a blue ribbon on our chest”, he said he wants to quietly love like Jesus does through this park.

Of course what we are all looking forward to is when the zoo will open. He said they are hoping for next Spring, but that’s a lofty goal to have it all ready by 2022. Most of all he wanted me to share “Don’t give up on Roo Doo’s”. Continue sharing excitement and taking about it coming, friends, because it will be ready before we know it!

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Madison VanRavensway
Madison VanRavensway
Don't let her quiet nature fool you. Madison is a force to be reckoned with in the outdoors, or creating amazing recipes from scratch.
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