Celebration for the Critters: History

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In 1980, San Diego Chargers place kicker Rolf Benirschke, started a unique program, Kicks for Critters, to help fund the San Diego Zoo’s department of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES). The CRES cause – to study, preserve and protect endangered animal species – was near and dear to Rolf’s heart in part because his father, Dr. Kurt Benirschke, had founded CRES a few years earlier

With Kicks for Critters, Rolf donated money to CRES for every field goal he kicked during a Chargers game. In addition, he invited the community to pledge dollars to CRES per field goal, too. With the help of Rolf’s friends, hoteliers Terry and Charlene Brown, a Kicks for Critters pledge party was held at their Hanalei Hotel in Mission Valley to introduce the program to the public and to encourage pledges.

When Rolf retired from football, the Kicks for Critters pledge-recruitment event evolved into the Celebration for the Critters, the largest food and beverage tasting party in San Diego. Originally held at the Town & Country Hotel and hosted by the Browns, Celebration was moved to the Zoo in 1993 and has been there ever since. Rolf continues his involvement in raising money for CRES by serving each year as the Celebration’s honorary chair, along with his wife, Mary.

Proceeds from this year’s event benefit The Zoological Society’s department of Conservation and Research for Endangered Species (CRES), and its conservation efforts in the United States and around the world.