Sea lions recovering at San Pedro's Marine Mammal Care Center have certainly found a friend and advocate in local Lunada Bay Elementary fourth grader Rachelle Dale.
For the past four years Dale, 9, has collected donations and supplies for the center which specializes in rehabilitating stranded and injured marine mammals such as sea lions.
Rachelle's mother, Anne Christmas-Dale, said that when Dale was in kindergarten, she asked her to pick a charitable group to donate to on her birthday. With a love for sea life and most other animals, Christmas-Dale said her daughter chose the Marine Mammal Care Center.
"At that time she wanted to be a marine biologist or a veterinarian," Anne recalled in an email to Patch. "She still loves sea life and felt bad there were sick baby sea lions out there."
Dale's donations have now become an annual birthday tradition and for the past four birthdays, Rachelle has made it a point to gather donations and supplies for the sea lions.
To date, Christmas-Dale estimates her daughter has collected around $1,100 in donations plus much needed supplies like Karo Syrup to feed the sea lions, rolls of paper towels and reams of paper.
This year, Dale delivered approximately $300 in donations plus 160 ounces of Karo Syrup. According to MMCC's website, the monetary donation alone will provide enough food for one day for 30 sea lions.
This year in particular, Dale's donations were especially appreciated as the center saw a record amount of abandoned sea lion pups showing up at its door in January.
"To see nearly 50 arrive in January is very rare for us," MMCC operations director David Bard told the Daily Breeze this month. "They're coming in starving and in record numbers. Nutrition is their biggest challenge."
Christmas-Dale said that the center always makes sure Dale feel appreciated for her efforts.
"Rachelle got a sincere thank you from the people at MMCC," Christmas-Dale said. "They were thrilled."
Going forward, Christmas-Dale said that while her daughter may have changed her career aspirations from being a veterinarian to becoming a kindergarten teacher, Dale will always have a love for animals.
For those who want to follow in Dale's footsteps and contribute to the Marine Mammal Care Center, monetary donations can be made through the center's website at marinemammalcare.org/donations. For those wishing to donate supplies, a wish list of materials is available at marinemammalcare.org/wish-list.