Several years ago, The Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center shifted away from the traditional zoo model to focus on education, conservation and rehabilitation. Now, more than 220 animals call The Zoo their home, with almost 90 percent deemed non-releasable due to age, disability, injury or other circumstances.

Education has taken center stage at The Zoo, with its Zoo on the Go program expanding by 50 percent over the past 18 months. In 2018, off-site education programs reached almost 8,000 people across Massachusetts and Connecticut. The 2019 numbers are closer to 12,000. This growth, which is especially helpful in the winter months when The Zoo is closed to the public, began to take shape in 2016 when Balise Motor Sales donated a van to be used in Zoo on the Go and other off-site education programs. These programs are delivered to schools, libraries, after school programs, daycares, senior centers, senior living facilities, businesses and private homes.

Three years later, Balise is once again showcasing its exceptional commitment to community by donating a new, fully wrapped, 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe for The Zoo’s education programs. The Zoo took possession of the vehicle on Thursday, Nov. 7 at 9 a.m., when Zoo staff will picked it up from the Balise Hyundai location at 683 East Columbus Ave., Springfield.

“We take the education component of our work seriously, and are always looking for ways to expand our reach and increase people’s understanding of the natural world,” said Sarah 

Tsitso, executive director of The Zoo in Forest Park & Education Center. “We celebrated our 125th season in 2019, and I can’t think of a better way to end the year than with this fantastic partnership with Balise Motor Sales. We are endlessly grateful for their generosity and their support of the work we are doing around education and conservation.”

Balise Motor Sales is one of the largest retailers of new and used automobiles in New England. Headquartered in West Springfield, Mass., the organization employs over 1,500 associates at facilities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

“We’re thrilled to continue supporting Forest Park Zoo’s Zoo on the Go program,” said Alex Balise, director of marketing for Balise Motor Sales. “Since getting involved back in 2016, we’ve been able to see how an in-person, hands-on program like this can enrich an individual’s learning experience in new and exciting ways. We're so happy to play a part in delivering this unique educational offering to the community.”

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