Boo at the Zoo!
A few weeks ago, one of my close friends from Alternative Spring Break last year asked me to join her to volunteer for a night at Boo at the Zoo – a beloved fall event for kids in the Nashville area during Halloween time! I happily said yes, and figured it would be the perfect combination of fun, friends, and philanthropy.
Side note, go on ASB! It was one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences I have had at Vanderbilt. It was the perfect combination of meeting like-minded students at Vandy who enjoy spending their spring break doing service, but also hearing about people’s diverse interests and areas of involvement on campus. Also, they love to put words that start with B at the end of the acronym to refer to something that has to do with ASB—ASBest friends, ASBank, ASBabes…thus these are my ASBoos. (Double meaning here: 1. Friend or lover 2. The word used to scare people while in the Halloween spirit).
So this past Friday night, we packed into my roommate’s Honda Civic with me at the wheel and drove over to the Nashville Zoo! I had never been before, but two Nashvillians I was with knew the Zoo in and out. They had spent their childhoods going to the Nashville Zoo, and had even participated in their programming during Halloween.
The minimal effort of putting together our costumes unfortunately showed – but we were there for the cause! Our crew included a pumpkin, DJ Tanner from Full House, a tourist, a crazy NASCAR fan, a hippie, and a princess. After the volunteer coordinators somewhat grudgingly looking at our mediocre and unimpressive outfits, they assigned us to be greeters at the front gate. This may also been have because we stuffed our faces with the hot dogs and PB&Js for volunteers as soon as we arrived, and they assumed we would do the same thing if they had assigned us to a candy station. (Or the costumes. Or a combination of both. We’ll never know). Regardless, we had a job to perform – get people pumped up to be there and give directions to the different activities!
In college, you are not used to seeing children anymore. You are surrounded by other people ages 18-22, and if you are anything like me, seeing a kid will singlehandedly brighten your day. Now imagine seeing hundreds of kids on one of their favorite nights of the year (or using Boo at the Zoo as an excuse to dress up twice). Having lost my own ingenuity for this festive holiday, I was amazed at each costume I saw and could not stop smiling at the countless kids walking by. Each one was so meticulously dressed, and I had some nostalgia thinking about my previous costumes from childhood – I remember spending weeks generating lists about potential costumes, scouring websites for ideas, and tearing through bins in my attic for props and pieces of inspiration. My favorite costumes were the mini Statue of Liberty, a family of furry sheep, a fierce Ghostbuster, and baby Tinkerbelle. There was not a lack of cuteness or creativity.
Boo at the Zoo happens for 10 nights during the month of October. Guests are allowed to roam around the various activities from 5-9pm, but volunteers stay from 4:30-9:30pm. Volunteers spend their time passing out candy at one of the stations among the Scary Story Treat Trail or assisting with other areas of need throughout the night. As a newbie, I left my spot at the entrance a few times to explore everything that the Zoo had to offer. One of my friends I came with saw even ran into one of her sorority sisters who was also volunteering! Her sister had the glorious assignment of dancing with kids in the Fall Festival Field area – exhilarating but exhausting. There are also hayrides and multiple entertainment shows throughout the night.
There are several ways to get involved and volunteer on Vanderbilt’s campus or in the Nashville area. Be sure to check out Boo at the Zoo next year for a frightful, fun night!