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Getting a Feel for Nature With a Helping Hand : Zoology: Scouts lead blind, underprivileged youths on Sensory Safari of mounted creatures.


YORBA LINDA — Instead of spending another Saturday watching cartoons, Ryan Frederick, 12, donned his Boy Scout uniform and spent the day leading a blind boy through tents filled with wild animals. The stuffed and mounted kind.

"It's kind of fun leading," said Ryan, who lives in Brea. "I thought it would be kind of hard and boring; instead it's easy and fun."

More than 1,500 blind, handicapped or underprivileged youngsters participated in Safari Club International's second annual Sensory Safari, a hands-on educational program at Featherly Regional Park. All animals were donated by a Fullerton taxidermy company.

"We chose the sightless because it's a hands-on experience," said John DeFalco, president of Safari Club International's Los Angeles chapter. "We included the underprivileged because they never get to go to the zoo. For many of these kids, their lives are confined. Their eyes are their hands. In a zoo, you can't get this close to an animal."

Safari Club International is an organization that works to protect animals and hunting. The club helps preserve wildlife species through financial and political support for professional wildlife management.

Each blind person was paired with a guide from Southland Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts troops. The Scouts led their partners through two tents. Each tent had 25 African and North American wildlife species.

Evan Wright, 11, the boy Frederick was guiding, delighted in Sensory Safari. A legally blind youth from Roland Heights, Evan darted from one exhibit to the next, petting, hugging and kissing the animals.

"Evan? Would you like to feel the ox?" asked Frederick, leading him by the arm to the large furry beast.

"Wow," said Evan, wrapping his arms around its body.

Each station was manned by a Safari Club member who gave the youngsters bits of information about the animal.

"They like to hear everyday talk about the animals," said Mari Lou Carlson, a member of the Safari Club's Los Angeles chapter. "And then to see the younger Scouts helping the other kids, it's just wonderful."

Led by her Scout, 12-year-old Jenny Kaufman's face lit up as she touched a dall sheep. Jenny is also legally blind.

"This part is soft," said Jenny, a resident of Upland, in describing the sheep. "The horn is hard."

In addition to the wildlife exhibits, there also was a climbing activity in which youngsters in harnesses walked on a steel rope from one tree to the other by pulling themselves along with ropes. Much to the their delight, Disney's Donald Duck and Goofy also were in attendance.

"The tree thing was fun," Evan Wright said. "Most kids don't get to do that."

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