WildCare experience leads volunteer toward new career choice.
It was one of those life-defining moments that Denise Woods will never forget.
As an innocent and sensitive 7-year-old just outside her grandmother's house in Washington, Woods recalls, she saw a baby bird that had fallen out of its nest. All of the neighbors' children were tormenting the bird, while Woods quickly tried in vain to rescue and comfort the dying animal.
Woods' voice now grows soft with meaning as she recalls the moment 15 years ago. She cups her hands together with palms facing upward while describing how she held the bird for the final seconds of its life.
"I just remember feeling so helpless that there was nothing I could do for this animal," Woods said. "I wanted to help it so badly. It just died in my hands. Of course, I cried."
Her love for animals was born. Woods, a 22-year-old Kansas University senior majoring in biology, has always cared deeply about helping animals. Still, she was planning to go to medical school and become a physician before volunteering at WildCare a year and a half ago. Woods has had such a great experience there that she is now looking forward to a new career in veterinary medicine. She hopes to attend Kansas State University next fall.
"I think it's (WildCare) really the major force behind me wanting to go to veterinary school," Woods said. "It's led me in the direction I want to go. I really like it. I'd be really thrilled to get into K-State right now and maybe later go on and be certified for wildlife medicine. That would be great if I could do it all."
Woods has done it all at WildCare, a nonprofit organization dedicated to caring for injured and orphaned wild animals. The agency's goal is to diminish human impact on nature by enhancing awareness, appreciation and protection of wildlife through rehabilitation and education.
Woods keeps busy volunteering 12 hours a week, feeding the animals, giving them treatments and cleaning their cages, as well as doing fund-raising and education projects.
Woods also spends a lot of invaluable time just answering people's questions over the phone and teaching them about the various types of wild animals and their needs. She stressed that educating the public is an extremely important part of the organization's work and directly affects wildlife by influencing people's attitudes, habits and practices.
In addition to these duties, Woods serves as vice president for Students for WildCare, a KU campus organization.
Woods says she receives tremendous satisfaction volunteering with WildCare, especially when she sees animals come in and then weeks later returned to their natural habitat.
Regan Johnston, veterinarian and animal care manager for WildCare, definitely feels Woods is one of the best volunteers at the organization. Johnston lauds her energy, thoroughness and ability to get along with people.