Paradise Valley, AZ (KPHO) — A kinkajou, a wallaby and a skunk! Oh my! A Valley teen struggling with chronic pain got a once-in-a-lifetime experience, thanks to Arizona’s Family and World Wildlife Zoo.
“When Emma was four, she was diagnosed with a tumor in her spine,” said Carmen, explaining why she nominated the girl and her family. “She has a metal rod placed in there. She’s in a wheelchair now. I thought you guys could bring them really great news.”
“We have a secret weapon for our surprise today,” said 3TV reporter Kylee Cruz, walking up to a truck loaded with exotic animals.
“Wildlife World Zoo is so excited to be able to surprise her with a lot of amazing animals today, to make her day extra special,” said Kristy Morcom, director of media relations for Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park.
Carmen and Cruz knocked on the door, surprising Emma’s father and mother.
“Sounds like you guys have been through a lot,” said Cruz.
“Absolutely we have,” said Emma’s father Matt. “It’s been a long ordeal with our daughter but we’re pulling through. I was with Toys R Us for 8 years and in July they closed all their stores, so yeah, I lost my job.”
“It’s just a bummer, every day, every day to hear your kid whine and cry and not know what to do and it be chronic pain,” said Emma’s mother Keri. “She’s had chemo, rods, she’s been in a halo, I mean the kid’s been through everything. We still hope that she will recover.”
Emma joined the conversation when the group moved to the family’s back yard.
“You’ve had five different tumors?” asked Cruz.
“Yes,” said Emma. “Five different removals this year.”
“What’s it like to go through all that at just 13?” said Cruz.
“I don’t mind the hospital anymore,” said Emma. “I mind the pokes but I don’t really mind anymore.”
“Are you in a lot of pain every day?” said Cruz.
“Yes,” said Emma.
“How do animals help you?” said Cruz.
“I don’t want to say they take away the pain but it’s kind of like a distraction,” said Emma. “It helps.”
“We have Kristy from Wildlife World Zoo and she’s got some animals that you can have fun with,” said Cruz.
A large overstuffed gift basket from the zoo was brought in and given to Emma, while Kristy brought in the first animal. A look of amazement came over Emma as her jaw dropped.
“This wallaby’s actually a year old believe it or not,” said Kristy. She placed the small animal which was wrapped in a snuggie, on Emma’s lap.
“When they’re born they are about the size of a jelly bean so she’s just like a miniature kangaroo,” said Kristy.
Emma petted the wallaby affectionately while her parents looked on smiling.
“I knew you were in pain today,” said Cruz. “Is this a nice little distraction for you?”
“Yes,” smiled Emma.
“This is the first time we have actually ever done anything like this,” said Kristy about bringing the exotic creatures to a private residence.
“Really?” said Keri. “Wow, thank you very much.”
“Bring the zoo to you!” smiled Kristy.
“That’s amazing,” said Matt.
The next animal Kristy brought in made the whole family gasp.
“This is Buffy the Vampire Sprayer,” said Kristy holding a small, fluffy tailed skunk! “She’s really sweet. A lot of people, when they see a skunk, think they’re going to get sprayed. But she’s a brand-new ambassador to Wildlife World.”
Kristy then brought in another small animal with wide eyes.
“This is Snicklefritz!” said Kristy.
“Snicklefritz?” everyone echoed.
“Snicklefritz is a kinkajou and she is definitely a crowd favorite,” said Kristy handing the animal to Emma.
“How do you like holding her?” asked Cruz.
“I love it,” said Emma softly, looking down at Snicklefritz. “I want to keep her.”
“You have the perfect mothering touch,” said Kristy as Matt took a picture of Emma cuddling the animal.
Emma spent some time petting the animal and letting it explore.
Kristy wrapped up the animal experience with a lizard, Titan the Argentine tegu.
“So, this guy’s from Argentina,” said Kristy.
The lizard’s stuck its long tongue out.
“Did you see its tongue? Do you know what he’s doing?” asked Kristy about the animal’s behavior. “He’s smelling you guys.”
“We have one more surprise from Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad and your Valley Toyota Dealers,” said Cruz as she handed Keri a box.
“Oh, my gosh!” said Keri when she read the card tucked inside, while Matt laughed. “Thank you so much!”
“That’s amazing, thank you,” said Matt. Turning to Emma he said “It’s three months of insurance paid for. That is wonderful.”
“It means breathing room. It means less stress,” said Keri. “Thank you, right at Christmas time.”
“Every bit helps and that’s absolutely amazing,” said Matt. “That’s great.”
If you would like to support Emma and her family go to gofundme.com/please-help-emma-the-brave.
Thank you to Wildlife World Zoo for bringing a zoo experience to Emma, the gift basket and for inviting her whole family to be special guests for a day.
Arizona’s Family Surprise Squad is sponsored by your Valley Toyota Dealers.
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