Last Saturday, Wild Adventures was able to fulfill the wish of very special 13-year-old girl named Maddie who has always wanted to get up close and personal with one of her favorite animals, a sloth.
“Today, she’s so excited,” Melanie Pitts, her mother, said. “You know, she hasn’t been here in two years. When we pulled off of Exit-13, she said, ‘If we’re going to Wild Adventures, I’m going to be the happiest kid in the world.’ She didn’t know until we pulled into the parking lot.”
Maddie was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. She has created a list on her Facebook page, No Fear Just Faith, that details dozens of experiences she would like to have, including some she has already crossed off this list such as “driving a racecar” and “riding a hot air balloon.”
Sara Sumner from Black Crow Media in Valdosta noticed that “meet a sloth” was still on Maddie’s list, and worked with us to organize the visit. Of course, Maddie’s parents wanted to keep the special trip a secret.
“All we tell her is, ‘We’re going on an adventure today.’ That’s how we start all of our adventures,” Pitts said. “And we didn’t even tell her what we were doing when we got here. She didn’t even know she was meeting Oscar until he walked in.”
Oscar is Wild Adventures’ very own two-toed sloth. He is eight-years-old and one of the park’s most popular Animal Ambassadors, participating in everything from classroom visits to group meet-and-greets. For Maddie, he made some time to socialize one-on-one.
“I am so, so excited about today,” Maddie said. “Today, I want to have some family time with my family and have fun with my siblings.”
Maddie is a part of the Hugs of Hope, non-profit organization which was founded by her older sister, Elizabeth Pitts. Elizabeth passed away in 2010 but her organization lives on, supporting local pediatric cancer families throughout Lowndes, Berrien, Cook and Tift county.
“For us, this is so exciting,” Melanie Pitts said. “Her sister did not get these opportunities. Everything was, ‘When you get better, when you get better.’ We never got to have fun. And with Madeline, it was, ‘We’re not going out like that.’ We’ve actually forgone a lot of treatment so that she could have quality over quantity.”
“A lot of people really help us make a lot of amazing things happen,” Melanie said. “We had some amazing partners with Black Crow Media who helped coordinate this, and Wild Adventures immediately jumped on board and said, ‘We would love to have you come and meet Oscar, and Oscar would be excited to meet you.’ Here Maddie is, not even in her wheelchair today, and she’s going to try to walk through Wild Adventures and ride rides today.”
For more information about Maddie and Hugs of Hope, visit hugsofhope.org.