Why did Bob join Brookfield AAZK? Well he first became aware of AAZK when he saw an early publication of Animal Keepers’ Forum laying around Brookfield Zoo. His interest was piqued by the fascinating articles and excellent information that was contained in the journal. When he queried some of his fellow volunteers about the organization he was told it was only for paid staff and keepers, however upon further investigation he found out he could join as an associate member and did so immediately. As a BZ volunteer he only gets to the zoo once or twice a week, so he was happy to learn that there were no meeting attendance or work requirements, but you could help out as much as your time permitted. Brookfield AAZK was a good fit for him and his interest in animal husbandry, conservation and public education about the environment.
Having been a member for 4 years, Bob has attended a number of the chapter meetings. He saw that the chapter was doing outstanding fun events that benefited the public. Raising funds for important animal conservation causes and providing funds for keeper continuing education. All of their efforts benefit Brookfield Zoo (Chicago Zoological Society), its staff, and most importantly the animals. Bob was very happy to note that Dr. Stewart Strahl, President and CEO of CZS, supports and encourages the organization knowing that other chapters do not get the same support from zoo management
Of all the events that Brookfield AAZK holds, the annual Salt Creek clean-up is Bob’s favorite. He did however have a wonderful experience at the recent 2014 Spaghetti Dinner held on March 27th to benefit Vital Ground Foundation. “It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun, especially getting to see Svengoolie”.
So who is Bob Aitchison – Brookfield AAZK member? He is a Volunteer at Brookfield Zoo. When asked why he volunteers he admits that it was “my interest in animals, my visits as a child, and I’ve always been a zoo groupie and keeper wanna be”. He was a member of the 6th Docent class in 1980 and has volunteered for 34 years. His main duty is as a Docent, however he can be seen around the zoo working in many other capacities and helping out where he can. Over the years Bob has taught zoo classes, helped out staff when they did physicals inside Baboon Island and the old Seven Seas, would go into Chicago and plug Brookfield Zoo as a location for business picnics, sold tickets at the Chicago Board of Trade, and enjoyed getting muddy at Dragonfly Marsh, cutting buckthorn, planting, pulling garlic mustard, etc. He enjoys the latter so much that he is a Co-Steward for Lake County Forest Preserve District at Prairie Wolf Slough where once a month he performs the same task there as he does at Dragonfly Marsh. This year at the April 27th, 2014 Volunteer Appreciation Dinner he was presented with the TWIGA, which is Brookfield Zoo’s Volunteer of the Year award. An award well deserved.
Bob admits that he is “a 60 year old male . . . entering his second childhood”. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science/Animal Biology from the University of Illinois. He is a retired Firefighter/Paramedic, Haz Mat Team Member, and Diver from the Deerfield Bannockburn Fire Protection District. Recently he retired from a part time position at O’Hare with TSA last October. In addition he is retired from the Army Reserve Veterinary Corps and was a Viet Nam Era vet who was called up for Desert Shield, Joint Endeavor, and Enduring Freedom. He is married and has two sons, one is his first year of high school and one with two Bachelor’s Degrees and is currently finishing a Master’s degree which will result in a Physician’s Assistant License. Bob’s wife is a LTC in the Army Reserve Medical Corps and is currently stationed in Afghanistan. When back in the states, she works as a nurse of Northshore University Health Care System in Evanston and Highland Park.
We all thank Bob and his wife for their service to our country.