ACF Impact Snapshot

Christmas for the Animals

An Alaska Zoo Community Event

In 2022, The Alaska Community Foundation dedicated $7,000 to sponsorships intended to support nonprofits in their fundraising efforts and community events. One of the year’s last sponsorship recipients is grounded in an old Anchorage holiday tradition. 

The Alaska Community Foundation was proud to become the first-ever official sponsor of the Alaska Zoo’s Christmas for the Animals event this holiday season. This beloved program was brought to life in the late 1970s by Zoo founder Sammye Seawell, whose vision was to open the Zoo to the community for a bonfire, festivities, and the option of placing food donations in large stockings for the animals. Every December, Christmas for the Animals is held in combination with the Zoo Lights and Artisans’ Bazaar events, creating a trifecta of family-friendly holiday activities.

In the nearly fifty years since its inception, it has become the Alaska Zoo’s most enduring tradition.

This year’s Christmas for the Animals saw nearly 1,200 visitors enjoying the traditional activities of soaking up warmth from the bonfire and placing food in the animals’ Christmas stockings. Children lined up to meet Santa Claus while carolers from the Anchorage Opera and the O’Malley Elementary Choir serenaded humans and animals alike. A food drive for the Food Bank of Alaska joined the line-up, with local youth sports and scout groups helping zoo volunteers to manage donations.  

“At a time of year which can be stressful for many, the Alaska Zoo hopes this event warmed the hearts of all who gathered to attend and support this effort,” said Zoo spokesperson Katie Larson. She wished to give special thanks to their volunteers, who “opened their hearts and gave their time to create a special evening which created memories and encouraged giving.”

The chance to be Santa Claus to the Zoo animals was especially memorable for local children. Siblings Hannah and Noah Hodge, 8 and 10, respectively, were enthusiastic participants.

“Being Santa for the animals was fun, especially the wolverine,” said Noah, while Hannah remarked, “The animals are so cute, and they liked the fish and carrots we gave them.”