I am Corina Yeh, a SCA Centennial Volunteer Ambassador at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. 

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Fabiola Delgado and I posing with Sunny during our “Mascot Training.”

Barely two months ago, Saguaro National Park received a new friendly face in our ranks – Sunny the Saguaro, our new mascot! Everyone in the park was so excited to reveal him to the public when he first arrived. This concept had been a work-in-progress when I first arrived almost a year ago, and with the help of a AmeriCorps DOI/VISTA intern (Sara Skiles) and our Friends of Saguaro National Park nonprofit group, this mascot was able to come to life.

 

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SAGU Superintendent, Darla Sidles and Friends of Saguaro’s Executive Director, Bob Newtson with Sunny!

One struggle that Saguaro NP faces is that a large part of the surrounding community is unaware of our existence! There are no bus lines that come directly out, or even walking or biking distance from the park for the average Tucsonan. We are also a big college town so turnover of residents is much higher than most cities, making it difficult to make lasting connections with that age group in Tucson.This is where Sunny helps out immensely; he increases the park’s exposure to the public by creating awareness. He’s definitely hard to miss! Mascots garner a lot of attention and excitement from the media and community as well.

The first event I “tried him out” at was the local Tohono O’odham career fair. This was a smaller event that was geared towards helping native youth realize the career options that were available. Since then, Sunny has made successful appearances all over Tucson, including the BEYOND Tucson run, Tucson Festival of Books, and Saguaro NP’s Centennial Birthday Celebration.

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Sunny the Saguaro with school children at the career fair.

“Sunny the Saguaro attracted more people to our table than previous events without him! People were excited to take photos to share on social media. There were a lot of positive interactions,” said Fabiola Delgado, one of our AmeriCorps DOI/VISTA interns who attended the career fair.

With Sunny around, we are hoping that people identify their positive interactions with him with Saguaro National Park! Although he can’t speak, he is very memorable and stands as a friendly ambassador of the Sonoran Desert. He serves as an intriguing incentive for families to come visit our booth, and with a little luck, the park!