Former TV game show host and animal rights activist Bob Barker has pledged a $250,000 donation to help the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach recover from a devastating Dec. 22 flood.
Barker is the former host of "The Price is Right," and has contributed to anti-whaling efforts and other animal advocacy groups.
The center was inundated early on Dec. 22 when Laguna Creek overflowed during an intense downpour following six days of precipitation. Three marine mammals — a sea lion and two elephant seals — were rescued after waters in the barn in which they were placed rose to about four feet in depth. The sea lion has since died at the San Pedro facility to which the evacuees were taken.
The flood destroyed the center's medical equipment in addition to food service and other equipment and the center has been closed while repairs to the exterior and interior structures take place. Damages were estimated at $250,000 to $300,000. The Pacific Life Foundation donated $50,000 in the days after the flooding.
"I welcome this opportunity to help the Pacific Marine Mammal Center resume operations as soon as possible," said Barker. "However, I hope the public will continue to contribute generously to the Center to help treat the hundreds of seal and sea lion patients that will be in need of care this season."
The Barker donation is expected to expedite the return of the center to full operation.
"We are so humbled by the generosity that Bob has shown to our Center, and feel fortunate that he has come forward to help us in our time of need," said Melissa Sciacca, director of development for the center, in a statement issued to the press. "Because of Mr. Barker's kindness, we are one giant step closer to getting our hospital for seals and sea lions back on track. We applaud his philanthropic nature, and are inspired by his kindness to animal welfare organizations."
Sciacca added that the center plans to name a sea lion patient "Bob Barker" and will invite Barker to help release the animal back to the ocean after its recuperation at the center.
"We are so grateful for the generosity of Mr. Barker and the philanthropic example he sets for the community as a whole," said PMMC Executive Director Colleen O'Higgins. "It is critical to the staff and board at PMMC to be ever mindful of the generous contributions of our donors and to further solidify the center so that we are better positioned to carry out our critical mission."
O'Higgins said that she is looking at how to fortify the center so it is not subject to flooding in the future, which will take more money.
"It is our responsibility to not only protect the safety of the animals and individuals on site, but to also safeguard the investments our donors have generously made to our Center," O'Higgins said. "In light of the recent damage, it has become clear that short term solutions are not in the best interest of our organization, and that the focus on protecting our Center from future damage is of critical importance.
"Each day we learn more about the costs that will be associated with repairing and fortifying our facility, and until we are in a position to determine exactly which path is the appropriate course of action, we are unclear as to the total amount of costs we will undoubtedly incur," she said. "At this point, we are speaking with experts in the fields of civil engineering and geotechnology to mindfully assess the costs to both repair and mitigate flood exposure in the future."
Pacific Marine Mammal Center is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Road. For more information visit http://www.pacificmmc.org.