The Phoenix Zoo Auxiliary

Since 1961

Join the dynamic Phoenix Zoo Auxiliary — proudly serving as the Zoo’s oldest volunteer fundraising organization since 1961— a year before the Zoo opened in November 1962. Since its inception, the Auxiliary has contributed over $3 million in funding to various projects and continues its proud tradition of ongoing support of our Zoo.

60 Years of the Phoenix Zoo Auxiliary

You can see them throughout the Zoo at any given event, leading a field trip or even just greeting guests. Wearing their iconic zebra striped vests, volunteers with the Phoenix Zoo Auxiliary have been supporting the Zoo for 60 years! Their origin is as unique and colorful as the Zoo itself.

In the summer of 1961, a young couple were enjoying a tropical vacation, discussing the future of the city they called home. The husband lamented that the city was rapidly becoming one of the most prominent in the United States, and yet it lacked key amenities to establish it as a true “cosmopolitan force.” Knowing her husband enjoyed a good project, Nancy Maytag challenged her husband Robert Maytag (heir to the Maytag appliance fortune) to succeed where many had failed; establish a zoo for the city of Phoenix.

Maytag gathered his friends and associates and through influence and perseverance, he was able to put into motion a project that had long stalled as a city-funded entity. Thus, one of the most prominent privately funded zoos in North America was born.

Recognizing that she and her friends could be a powerful asset in the development of the Zoo, Nancy Maytag asked her friends to assist her with “a little fundraising and being helpful wherever we’re needed.” That motto became the backbone of the Arizona Zoological Society Ladies Auxiliary in October 1961.

The first four members were Nancy Maytag, Mrs. James Allen, Mrs. Tim Rodgers and Ann Lee Harris (a successful Broadway and television actress). Their first project was the sale of Christmas cards netting $500.

Next was a fashion show at the Camelback Inn that became an annual event well into the 1990s. Actress Ann Lee Harris used her influence to stage a world premiere for the movie, “Hatari” at the Kachina Theater on June 7, 1962. Many of the movers and shakers of the time attended the event and an appearance by the film’s star, John Wayne, created even more buzz.

In March 1963, the Auxiliary was growing in strength and numbers (125 by its second year) with an enviable waiting list for membership. It mounted the first Aid to the Zoo National Horse Show at the Arizona Biltmore with 220 exhibitors. Over 1,000 people attended the opening day and the five-day project netted $12,000. Over the years, the show became so prestigious that it moved to the Arizona Veterans Memorial 60 Years of the P hoenix Zoo Auxiliary Coliseum. Eventually, the Aid to Zoo Horse Show moved to the Goodyear Equestrian Center where it continued until 1992. After a glorious 29-year run, the Aid to Zoo Horse Show had earned over $2 million dollars for the Auxiliary and the Zoo.

Though the Aid to Zoo Horse Show was financially more successful, the Auxiliary’s Fall Fashion Show and Luncheon, first held in 1962, was a long-running staple of the fashion show season. It earned monies toward many projects until its final show in 1993. Other fundraisers spearheaded by the Auxiliary included Zoo-B-Que (an Arbor Day event), the Great Adventure Hunt (a timed scavenger hunt and dinner), and Zoo Sounds (a concert and dinner).

Looking for a signature look to set Auxiliary members apart from guests at their ever-popular events, the membership adopted their distinctive zebra stripe uniform during the Aid to Zoo Horse Show in 1965. Though the uniform has taken many forms through the years (from wrap dresses to jumpers, skirts and the present-day vests), the zebra stripes have prevailed.

One of the Auxiliary’s most visible fundraisers has been the unique Handprints in Glass and Etched in Glass tiles located at the entrance to the Zoo. These beautiful tribute pieces have helped the Auxiliary raise close to $400,000 towards helping the Zoo build the new Doornbos Discovery Amphitheater and the Africa Trail expansion, as part of the Pride Campaign.

Auxiliary President, Kelley Durham, shares that “even before the Zoo opened, the Auxiliary was making it the group’s mission to raise funds for the Zoo and to promote education and conservation. Still going strong, this accomplished group of women do this by hard work, dedication and serving as ambassadors for the Zoo.” Over the past 60 years the Auxiliary has donated over $3 million to the Zoo.

From its first days as a service organization, Auxiliary members have volunteered in many capacities. Whether it’s at the Zoo itself, helping with the dirty work of renovating Ruby’s House, donating gifts to needy families, hosting school groups of homeless children or fulfilling the Zoo’s Wish List, Auxiliary members have proudly embodied Nancy Maytag’s first description, “doing a little fundraising and being helpful wherever we’re needed.”

[Back to Top]

PawPrints in Glass

Commemorate the love you have for your pets!

This is a unique opportunity to add your pet’s pawprint and name to the Etched in Glass Donor Wall.

To purchase a Pawprints in Glass tile kit, just follow the 5 steps listed below!

For more information on purchasing a Paw Prints in Glass tile kit, please contact phoenixzooprints@gmail.com.

Other Projects

We have items that are for sale all year long that benefit the Phoenix Zoo!

  • Charity Charms with bracelets, earrings, and other accessories
  • Hand-etched glassware featuring the Zoo’s animals
  • Greeting cards

The Auxiliary also sells these items on Zoo grounds at special events. For more information or to purchase these items, please contact phoenixzoocharms@gmail.com.

Get Involved

Join today and begin having fun, while fundraising for the Zoo!

Contact us at 602-286-3800 x7342 or zebraladies@gmail.com.

Visit the Phoenix Zoo Auxiliary on Facebook for updates and photos.

that's zoo we are

The Phoenix Zoo is one of the largest non-profit zoos in the U.S., caring for over 3,000 animals, with nearly 400 species represented, including many threatened/endangered species.