Gamma Meets Theta Kappa: Binghamton Zoo Retreat
As there were only three of us on the trip and we finished our service a little early, we decided to go over to an area called the storybook garden, which has sculptures representing a lot of children’s books and fairytales. After having gotten my latest Insta pics and Facebook profile pic, we noticed people wearing APO letters helping to beautify the garden by putting out wood chips! WHAT A COINCIDENCE! Shea recognized some of them and we quickly learned that they were brothers from the
-Brady Bunkelman, Retreats Assistant
With fifteen brothers split among three cars, we began the hour-long drive to cozy little Binghamton Zoo. Larger service projects can be intimidating for getting to know people, especially when you are new to Cornell like me, but the car-ride led to easy conversation and banter. Everything around us indicated it was fall, but the sun’s beating down ensured the strange unseasonal weather happenings were not to be ignored.
We met with the Binghamton chapter’s brothers in the zoo parking lot, greeting one-another amidst the bleating of the goats from the farm area. I am no stranger to small, local zoos and their needs—having been a volunteer keeper aid at one in high school—and it must be stressed that zoos like these are only able to function and thrive because of the contributions of volunteers, no matter the level of dedication. Zoos like Binghamton have a special place in my heart because I know the devotion to the animals the staff members have cultivated over the years. Our task on this Sunday in September was to simply beautify the zoological park by raking away the leaves burying the walkways. Brothers were quick to create interdependent systems to hasten the work: some used their shovels to fan away lighter things on the ground in following the rakers, some would put their rakes together to lift piles into trash bags.
What I found most remarkable was how the working together wasn’t chapter exclusive. Everyone was willing to help each other in tasks despite barely having met, and this fostered a hope in me as someone who has been searching for a niche here at Cornell. The volunteer coordinator had us stop at animal enclosures along the paths so we were able to get a “working tour”. Out of all of the animals, the two-toed sloth was who the Cornell brothers seemed least willing to leave. She is quite captivating. Some brothers shouted “Zoboomafoo!!” as they saw the black-and-white ruffed lemurs. Although ‘Zoboomafoo’ was a sifaka lemur, their comments made me feel right at home, as this summer I worked where Zoboomafoo was from, the Duke Lemur Center. I came out of my shell a bit explaining to some brothers the differences between the two species. As we neared the barn area toward the end of our time and service there, leaving behind a clear path, we got the opportunity to hand-feed the goats. Brothers lined along the enclosure, leaning over to try and favor the smaller goats as opposed to the big ones who looked like they had enough food
already. Once again, I see values of our brothers shining through as they give a leg up to animals who appear to need it, trite as the situation here may seem. Thank you for such a wonderful service trip out of the Cornell bubble!
*If any brothers need their memory stirred regarding the early 2000s American children’s show Zoboomafoo, here is the openingtheme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jj9u6SGB_GY The nostalgia is real.