Would you like to further your support of the world class Phoenix Zoo, while making friends and having fun?
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 in numerous ways, including:
- Being ambassadors at various Zoo events
- Raising funds through our Handprints In Glass donor wall project, inkjet cartridge recycling program and Phoenix Zoo Charms sales
- Conducting school tours of the Zoo
Join today and begin having fun, while fundraising for the Zoo! Contact us at 602-286-3800 x7342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Phoenix Zoo Auxiliary on Facebook for updates and photos.
history of the phoenix zoo auxiliary
In the summer of 1961, a young husband and wife were enjoying a tropical vacation and 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 some of the key amenities that would establish it as a truly “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.
The group located a plot of land and eagerly began planning exhibits. Fundraisers, including dinner parties, also started where guests were often treated to a visit from Heffalump, a baby Asian elephant, or Beau Brummell, a woolly monkey. Unsuspecting guests opened their hearts and wallets to such unorthodox measures (often referred to as “Gorilla Warfare”) and willingly jumped on the bandwagon eager to recruit more “friends of the Zoo.”
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.
With Robert Maytag’s premature death in March 1962, the project faced a setback. Fortunately, Maytag had gathered a strong group of businessmen and they took up the mantel and completed Maytag’s vision.
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. One thousand 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 Memorial 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 included Zoo-B-Que (an Arbor Day event), the Great Adventure Hunt (a timed scavenger hunt and dinner), Zoo Sounds (a concert and dinner), Aid to Zoo travel and ZooFari, a unique gourmet tasting event started by the Auxiliary, the Wildest Club in Town and the AZS Board of Directors. ZooFari was born in 1988, and the Auxiliary coordinated the event for the next 10 years working with WCIT, the AZS Board and many volunteers.
Looking for a distinctive 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.
While fundraising was a cornerstone of the Auxiliary, Nancy Maytag had said, “helping out wherever we are needed.” And so, they most certainly did. Members led guided tours of the Zoo, assisted in the baby animal nursery, supervised the petting zoo or worked in the office and gift shop. Some even housed baby animals at their homes while they waited for their exhibits to be completed!
Founding members Betty Bimson and her children raked and cleaned cages and cared for animals. While Auxiliary member Millie Chambers worked with the orangutans for over 10 years. There’s a story about Millie walking into the orangutan night house one day with Ben hanging upside-down from the ceiling. Apparently, he playfully lifted her off the floor and a startled Millie scolded him with a firm, “Put me down!”
Headlines from the 1960s through the 1980s told of the efforts of the Zoo striving to be among the “world class zoos.” Reaching out to local and national celebrities to help tell the Auxiliary and the Zoo’s story played a part. Amanda Blake, animal lover and star of the TV series ”Gunsmoke,” used her influence to help bring out the crowds to the many Auxiliary fundraisers. Even Hugh Hefner, of Playboy fame, helped out by allowing the Zoo to fly gorilla Baltimore Jack to Phoenix on the Playboy bunny jet.
From its first days as a service organization, Auxiliary members have volunteered in many capacities. Whether it’s at the Zoo itself, at the Parada del Sol, Fiesta Bowl, 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.”
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.