ROYAL OAK — On Friday, Jonathan Ericsson’s “52 for the Zoo” community initiative provided 15 children from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit a unique opportunity to stay overnight at the Detroit Zoo.
Ericsson, who could not be in attendance because of family issues, was able to combine two causes into one with this particular campaign.
“He wanted to do two things,” said Christy Hammond, community relations manager for the Red Wings. “He one, wanted to help kids do something they normally wouldn’t be able to afford to do, and then two, he wanted to help animals.”
Hammond also said that it is important for every Red Wings’ player to be active in some type of community program.
“Jonathan Ericsson, he’s from Sweden. He doesn’t have any long-lasting ties to the area,” she said. “But he wants to give back to the local community because he’s been given so much by playing here.”
The event was part of the Animals After Dark Tour, an experience that is available at the zoo during the summer consisting of guided tours, animal-themed activities and interactive exhibits. The children also engaged in a simulated-camping experience in which they roasted marshmallows, played games and watched a movie in the Ford Education Center.
“This is something that we work toward in our education department all the time,” said Carla Rigsby, associate curator of education at the zoo. “Its just being able to provide really unique education opportunities for kids.”
Ericsson will donate $50 to the “52 for the Zoo” program for every hit he records during the 2014-15 season to fund overnight trips to the Detroit Zoo for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit organization. Last year, Ericsson recorded 91 hits, despite playing in only 48 games.
“We look forward to it expanding and growing and being present for a really long time,” Rigsby said.