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C.R.O.W. prepares to debut Healing Winds Education Center

By Staff | Jan 15, 2009

“Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care can we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.”

– Jane Goodall

From all indications, the Healing Winds Visitor Education Center at C.R.O.W., a brand new 2,400-square-foot building located adjacent to their new state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, will become one of Sanibel’s most popular attractions for wildlife-minded tourists.

As part of a $2.8 million renovation of the C.R.O.W. campus, the center will offer visitors a fun and educational experience as they learn more about the organization’s mission through video presentations, interactive displays, walls filled with photographs, realistic animal models and informational kiosks which follow the case histories of four former patients at the clinic.

“This is all a collaborative effort,” said Dr. PJ Deitschel, C.R.O.W.’s dutiful veterinarian and longtime caregiver. “Dr. Amber (McNamara) and I did the majority of the research and writing for the displays, but the overall look and vision was worked on by everyone here.”

Malone Design/Fabrication, a Georgia-based group who had previously worked with clients including the Grand Ole Opry, Gettysburg National Military Park and the Smithsonian Institution, helped design the single-floor education center, which officially opens on Sunday, January 25 at 10 a.m.

According to Anita Pinder, community outreach coordinator at C.R.O.W., the facility is meant to offer visitors a self-guided tour. Following an introductory video presentation, guests walk clockwise around a large room, stopping along the way at displays detailing how injured animals brought to the clinic are admitted, diagnosed, treated, cared for and – as their mission hopes – released back into the wild.

Following their tour, visitors can take a quiz to see how much they’ve learned. They are also invited to stop in at C.R.O.W.’s new gift shop, where they may purchase educational materials, games, puzzles and stuffed animals.

“Our goal is to be both inspiring and educational, not only for young kids but for adults as well,” said Dr. Deitschel. “There’s something for everyone here.”

At kiosks placed in separate areas of the Education Center, four patients – a red-shoulder hawk, a river otter, a gopher tortoise and a wood stork – are featured. As you make your way around the room, you follow each patient’s case history from the time they were brought to C.R.O.W. to the time they were successfully released.

One wall contains a display called “Be The Vet.” There are four patients pictured, and guests must rotate various circles answering questions about the treatment process. If all of the answers are correct, the pictures are illuminated.

Another display, with two video monitors set at different heights (one for children, one for adults), shows nine live cameras of patients currently housed at the clinic. In one corner, you can see a raccoon pacing around his cage; in another, an injured bird sits quietly in its nest.

“We want to show the public what we do without compromising the health of our patients,” Dr. Deitschel noted.

Established in 1968, C.R.O.W. is one of the nation’s leading wildlife rehabilitation hospitals for tropical native and migratory wildlife. They provide medical care – using traditional, holistic and integrated medical practices – for more than 4,000 injured, sick and orphaned animals annually.

The grand opening celebration of the Healing Winds Visitor Education Center will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Jan. 25 at C.R.O.W., located at 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road. Following the celebration, a $5 per person donation is suggested.

“All of the animals who are patients at C.R.O.W. are here because of some sort of interaction with humans,” added Dr. Deitschel. “Here, people can discover what we can do to help prevent those things from happening in the future.”