Wild at Heart refuge’s open house a big hit

GLADES COUNTY — The animal residents, keepers and many visitors at Wild at Heart wildlife center for their open house last Saturday had a fun day not soon to be forgotten. The proof is in the many photographs taken and posted on social media by quite a few among the slew of people who came out.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Melissa Sue Martinez
This photo was taken by a volunteer helper for the day who also created “staff” T-shirts for others who assisted in the open house Saturday at Wild at Heart.

The couple who own the park were very happy with the turnout and emboldened by the community support to begin planning another public event in August sometime. The date depends on the outcome of a hearing in the eviction lawsuit they face July 10 in the 20th Circuit Court in Glades County.

Jamie Hargett and husband Jeremy publicly declared their gratitude to many of the people who helped them stage the day-long open house: “We would like to thank our board members and volunteers who helped out … they worked their butts off, and without them it wouldn’t have been possible. Alicia Simmons-Freedman, Ben Giles, Brittany McDonnell, Bryan Pellicer, Drew Macdonald, Dallas Delgado, Mike Freedman, Exotic Nick and Mike and Alicia’s kids, and Joe Pittman for taking pictures.”

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News/Victoria Daniel
Snake handling was a popular activity for many of the kids who visited.

They also thanked the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club Inc. for a generous donation. Other local businesses are helping out; D&M Customs is designing and will install a new sign for Wild at Heart to help direct people for future events.

Some new shelters were constructed for a few of their animals, including a brand new enclosure for their large land tortoises. They’re still looking for other building materials and, especially, shell rock to line the walking paths on the grounds.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Taking group shots at the Reptile Tent was a popular stop-off for lots of visitors; Bryan Pellicer of Fort Myers brought some of his exotic snakes.

On Monday, Mrs. Hargett posted a video from a walking tour of the park to show off the improvements their volunteers have been helping them to make for their followers on Facebook, and announced that they hope to soon have regular open house days. She said they are trying to figure out how to make their grounds more kid-friendly and ready for people who would like to take a day trip with their children to get some exercise while helping with daily chores at the park, while experiencing their exotic animals up close and personally.

The Hargetts welcome public suggestions on how they could make further improvements.

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