Game show veteran Bob Barker came to the Pacific Mammal Center on Wednesday to celebrate the official reopening of its visitor's center and release a seal — aptly named Barker — back into the wild.
"I must confess that the most exciting thing is Barker," he told the crowd, referring to his namesake seal. "I was astounded at the family resemblance. I have relatives that look a great deal like her."
The price couldn't have been more right when Barker donated $250,000 to the Pacific Mammal Center earlier this year, allowing the center to reopen its doors after the December floods ravaged it.
The center is the only rescue center in Orange County for marine mammals.
The former "The Price is Right" host was excited about his contribution to the center, which helped recover vital areas, such as medical equipment, the filtration system, the electrical panel and the building itself.
Although he's retired from show business, he had no trouble getting an enthralled audience, telling jokes and chatting with staff and volunteers.
He told camera crews that he hoped Barker would carry on the family name and then asked staff, "Barker hasn't been spayed, has she?"
Known for his philanthropy and dedication to animal protection — he recently gave $2.5 million to PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] — the center naturally thought of him when they were in need.
"This is the first time we have ever reached out to him and he responded beautifully," said Melissa Sciacca, the center's director of development and marketing. "It's hard to say if we would have been able to fully recover if it weren't for Bob Barker."
After the floods, Sciacca said, the center wasn't able to accept any animals due to the damage.
"Bob made it possible to get us up and running again," she said. After the contribution, they were able to start accepting patients again in February, some two months after the Dec. 22 flooding.
The center rescues 200 to 300 marine mammals a year.
All joking aside, Barker said it was an easy decision to get involved.
"I think the center is so vital to the care of the animals here on the beach," he said in an interview with the Coastline Pilot. "Not only do they bring in 300 rescues a year of their own, but they accept animals from other rescue organizations because this facility can do the treatment and the rehabilitation.
"This is the only one in Orange County, so it's important to keep it functioning."
A few hours later, Barker met his seal counterpart at Treasure Island beach, releasing it from its cage and letting it run into the water.
"It's going to be a very exciting moment for … both Barkers," he said with a smile.