Center seeks funds for mammals

Lauren Vane

Tommy the sea lion likes to show off when visitors come to see him.

He splashes around, in and out of his small pool, and presses his

face against the fence of his pen at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center

in Laguna Beach.

Tommy arrived at the center when he was abandoned shortly after he

was born -- about seven months ago. Since then, Tommy has been living

at the center, where he has been hand-reared and nursed by staff and


From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 the Marine Mammal Center will

host a holiday gathering at 20612 Laguna Canyon Road, to raise money

to provide marine mammals like Tommy with the food, medicine and care

they need.

Tickets to the event cost $12 for adults, $10 for members and $8

for children 12 and under.

"The money will go toward food and medication," said Beate Litz,

education director at the center.

Additionally, funds will contribute to the center's public

education and awareness programs.

The fundraiser will feature carnival games, arts and crafts,

ornament making, cookie decorating, holiday treats and pictures with

center mascot Sammie the Sea Lion. There will be an opportunity

drawing and a silent auction for both children and adults. The center

will open its doors and give a behind-the-scenes tour.

"It provides a special glimpse they wouldn't get otherwise," Litz


Throughout the year, the center holds additional fundraising

events, such as a summer day camp for children and a golf tournament,

but they said the annual holiday open house is always a favorite.

"This is more the family affair," said Emily Wing, director of

developing and marketing for the center.

The funds from the open house will help to maintain center

operations. During the busiest time, Litz said that the center can

spend up to $16,000 per month on food for the animals.

Litz said that the public is generally supportive of the center,

with about 60 volunteers who help with daily operations.

"It really isn't hard to get involved," Litz said.

In fact, Litz said that most of the animals arrive at the center

because of tips from local residents who see animals in distress,

either on beaches or in the water. One of the center's goals is to

educate the community about what to do if they see a marine mammal in


The center was founded in 1971 and it now cares for an estimated

250 marine mammals each year. The animals taken in by the center are

either sick, injured or have been abandoned. The center's goal is to

treat the animals and eventually release them, safe and healthy, back

into their natural habitat. The center rescues marine mammals along

the Orange County coastline.

"We're the only kind of our organization in Orange County," Wing


The majority of animals taken in are sea lions, elephant seals and

harbor seals, but young whales or dolphins are also rescued.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is where Tommy grew up and for

now, he seems content just playing with his newest toy, a baseball

cap that he likes to flip around and toss in the air.

For more information or to reserve tickets, call the center at

(949) 494-3050.

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