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
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