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Wildomar Scouts take top San Diego Zoo Recycling Award


Last updated 12/8/2006 at Noon

Wildomar Cub Scout Pack 332 captured its second first place finish in three years. Last year, the pack won second place recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles for the San Diego Zoological Society’s conservationist arm, the Center for Research of Endangered Species (CRES).

This year, the boys collected 26,860 containers for a total of $927.93 and a top place finish. Overall, the youth groups collected 1.4 million recyclables, or approximately one-fourth of the average contents of a landfill in the recycling loop, according to Marla Barr, Cans for Critters Program coordinator.

About $58,000 was raised in the 2006 drive to fund the center’s international conservation activities. Projects such as the efforts to put pandas back into the wild and the preservation of native habitats are of critical importance as the civilized world creeps farther into once-isolated preserves of endangered species.

“The goal is to show children they can make a difference in the world by collecting recyclables,” Barr said. Heading into its 30th year, the 2006 drive raised over $20,000 more than last year’s record-breaking total.

Wildomar Elementary School third-grader Ryan Bellinghausen, 8, recycles year-round with his parents. “We take walks and see cans and bottles [on the road],” he describes. And each day during lunchtime at school, Ryan collects bottles that would otherwise end up in the trash can. Last year, he collected more than 1,000 bottles and cans. “The cans have to be smashed and you have to take off the lids and tops,” he advised.

The reason for Ryan’s faithful diligence? “It’s to help the community,” he said.

Ryan’s dad, Cliff, Pack 332’s assistant scoutmaster, echoes similar sentiments that mesh with core scouting values. “They’re supposed to be part of the community, so what better way than to take care of the community ?” he said.

The Cans for Critters program also combines the conservation aspect of the Boy Scout model with an educational experience. “We may be seeing [endangered species] for the last time if we don’t take steps now,” Cliff said. As leader of Den #10, he places an emphasis on conservation. “We’re heavy into recycling. Newspapers, cans, bottles, cell phones – “anything we can get our hands on.”

The 29-year-old San Diego Zoo program joined groups nationwide for the first time this year. Recyclables were collected in Maine, Texas, Utah and other states outside the zoo’s home state of California.

The cycle of former participants has come full circle, as some of today’s parents were once students in the Cans for Critters program. “It’s kinda neat that we have parents who were once kids in the program,” said Barr. During its lifespan, the children have raised more than $1 million toward the protection of endangered species.

For more information on Cans for Critters, visit



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