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Thrive honors local and international conservation heroes

Posted by: Gigi Allianic, communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Last night during the Thrive Leadership Awards dinner and fundraiser, Woodland Park Zoo honored individuals and a family business who have demonstrated their commitment to protecting wildlife and the environment around them, and advancing the zoo's conservation mission.

WATCH: Be a Force for Nature at

“Conservation depends on people and each of these awardees is a force for nature,” said Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO Alejandro Grajal. “Zoos can’t protect the biodiversity of species alone. We need partners and the unsung heroes to help us protect our planet, whether that’s educating millions of visitors on zoo grounds, working with farmers in Mexico, or being a champion of wildlife through time and leadership. They are showing us how to change humanity’s relationship with nature. They are truly forces for nature.”

The zoo’s inaugural Thrive Leadership Awards were presented to:

Rodrigo Medellín (AKA The Bat Man!) with Woodland Park Zoo President and CEO, Alejandro Grajal.

Conservation Leadership Award: Rodrigo Medellín, PhD,
for his dedication to the study and conservation of bats and other mammals. Known as the “Bat Man of Mexico,” Medellín’s tireless research and work with farmers is restoring the population of Mexico’s lesser long-nosed bat, which pollinates the blue agave—the single plant species tequila is produced from. Bat-friendly tequilas and mezcals are saving bat species while revolutionizing Mexico’s tequila industry.

Woodland Park Zoo was honored to surprise Katherine with a scholarship in recognition of her outstanding leadership at the zoo as well as a little boost to her promising studies and career. We are grateful to our board member Rob Short and his wife Emer Dooley for underwriting this award. Not only has the zoo inspired Katherine and her aspirations, but she has in turn inspired dozens of her peers and thousands of visitors whom she’s touched. Congratulations!

Youth Conservation Award and $5,000 scholarship: Katherine Fry, a senior at Chief Sealth International High School, for contributing nearly 800 hours of volunteer service and providing leadership in the zoo’s youth programs including ZooCorps, Seattle Youth Climate Action Network and Citizen Science Amphibian Monitoring. In the fall, Fry will begin undergraduate study at Western Washington University to study environmental science and biology.

Keem and Denali thank Brown Bear Car Wash for their support!

Guy. C. Phinney Corporate Leadership Award: Brown Bear Car Wash and owners Odermat Family, who for more than two decades have supported Woodland Park Zoo through their generosity and leadership action. As a family business, Vic and Mary Odermat have made it a priority to have their whole family involved in connecting people to nature and being a voice and advocate for conservation.

Rick and Nancy Alvord with Dr. Darin Collins, director of animal health at Woodland Park Zoo.

Outstanding Philanthropic Leadership Award: Rick and Nancy Alvord,
a couple who has been a part of Woodland Park Zoo’s community for 32 years—giving so big-heartedly of their resources, time and leadership to help the zoo expand its role as a conservation and education institution. True believers in giving back to their community, they have passed this value on to their own children and grandchildren, creating a legacy of compassion for wildlife and the environment.

“These exemplary leaders are accomplishing extraordinary things to change the lives of animals, change the lives of people and change the world. This is what Woodland Park Zoo’s exciting and engaging future is all about,” said Woodland Park Zoo Board Chair Jeff Leppo.

Funds raised at the Thrive Leadership Awards dinner will support Woodland Park Zoo’s exemplary animal care program, wildlife conservation projects in the Pacific Northwest and around the world, hands-on environmental learning for all ages, and action-centered programs that engage communities in protecting wildlife and living landscapes. 

Thank you to all of our conservation heroes, as well as you, our members and visitors, who are a force for nature every time you visit the zoo.