PHOTOS: Lizards, iguanas and snakes! Oh my! (2024)

Former Penticton resident and now Abbotsford-based reptile crusader Mike Hopcraft brought his (mostly) cold-blooded menagerie to his hometown for a Family Day weekend fundraiser, and it seemed like most of Penticton showed up to check it out.

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That’s a mild exaggeration, but the turnout, on a weekend that seemed eerily quiet just about everywhere else, was staggering. And that's crucial to Hopcroft, who runs a Fraser Valley rescue/shelter called "Wild Education" for unique animals that find themselves homeless and/or in jeopardy.

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We're primarily talking reptiles and amphibians and arachnids and other unusual beasties. No boring cats or dogs.

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Hopcroft took in 132 of them in the last year alone. Many had been abandoned by their unprepared or ill-equipped owners.

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Hopcroft's team collects them, gives them a happy home and, to help pay the way, takes the friendliest of them to schools and fairs and assorted gatherings to show folks how cool they are.

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But the Wild Education facility is located on an Abbotsford-area rental property. And that property is now up for sale. So it's time to move.

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Their new home, if they can find one, will be far more pricey. So Hopcroft turned to the community he says has given him so much support over the years – Penticton – for a last-ditch fundraiser.

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"This weekend was a make or break for our fundraiser efforts actually," said Hopcroft Monday afternoon during the final day of the event, taking place at "Salon A" in the Penticton Lakeside Resort. "It's our biggest chance to raise a good chunk of money."

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And that's exactly what they did. When all was said and done, the three-day hands-on fundraiser, where ticket prices ranged from $15 for adults to $10 for "kids" to $0 for kids under two, pulled in nearly $23,000.

Another $1,700 came from a supportive bake sale put on by Penticton retail store Total Pet.

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The figures knocked Hopcroft for a loop.

"We had at least 1,000 (people) over the Saturday and Sunday," he said Tuesday. "And Monday was supposed to be the slow day, like holiday weekend Mondays usually are. But it was the busiest day by far. We're so happy."

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They should be. PentictonNow searched several local spots Monday for Family Day activity, but nothing compared to the buzz at Salon A. Seems people young and old wanted to get close up with a whole bunch of animals you don’t see every day.

And yes, there was a scorpion. It walked up our forearm.

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"This is a huge step in the right direction," said Hopcroft. "This was our biggest fundraiser ever. Now we can seriously start looking at places.

"You know, it's actually changing my focus. Maybe we can start generating more money on a regular basis. Even one a month in different spots could be huge."

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All around us Sunday were people in various stages of awe. Or fright. Or joy.

And that included event volunteers, most of which are Penticton residents. Young Penticton residents.

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Like teenager Dekklan Chappell, who spent some time teaching us about a 190-lb., 30-year-old tortoise.

"And he'll get bigger," he laughed after feeding our mutual friend a lettuce leaf.

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"I was bored yesterday," he explained. "So I came in and paid. Then I came in again today to volunteer so I could see these guys for free."

Sounds like a plan to us.

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Just a few feet away was 18-year-old Autumn Lafferty. We know Lafferty from her good work leading projects like 10,000 Tonight and Toys for Tots at Penticton Secondary. These days the recent grad is a lifeguard, amongst other things.

But on Monday she was helping visitors learn more about lizards and the like.

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"Mike and my mom grew up here, so when he comes to town for something like this, he messages her," she said. "And every time he's here, I'm here. My little sister's here today too."

We asked why she signed up when she could have simply taken the day off and relaxed.

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"Because I love animals," she laughed. "And I know a lot about these guys and I'm comfortable around them. Not everyone is comfortable around snakes and reptiles."

True that. For more info on Wild Education, turn here.

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PHOTOS: Lizards, iguanas and snakes! Oh my! (2024)
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