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December 19, 2014

World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia 2015 and Philadelphia Zoo
Surprise 4th Grader at Saint Thomas the Apostle for her Letter Inviting
Pope Francis to Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA (December 19, 2014) - The World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia 2015 and Philadelphia Zoo today turned a routine school day into the surprise of a lifetime when the organizations awarded Gabriella Lupold, a fourth grade student at Saint Thomas the Apostle in Glenn Mills, PA, with a complimentary 2015 Philadelphia Zoo Membership for the Lupold Family and a special "Zoo on Wheels" presentation for her and her classmates.

The complimentary 2015 Philadelphia Zoo Deluxe Family Membership was presented to Gabriella by Donna Crilley Farrell, Executive Director of the World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia 2015 and Vikram H. Dewan, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Zoo, in recognition of her beautifully crafted letter to Pope Francis. Gabriella was one of the more than 10,000 Archdiocesan students whose letters were mailed to Rome inviting Pope Francis to visit Philadelphia for the Eighth World Meeting of Families and her letter highlighted her and Pope Francis' shared passion for animals as well as her love of the Philadelphia Zoo. Showcased by several media outlets and on social media platforms during the November 14, 2014 World Meeting of Families Letter Mailing Press Conference, Gabriella's letter caught the attention of Mr. Dewan who outreached to the World Meeting of Families asking to if he could honor one of The Zoo's biggest fans.

"Part of the Philadelphia Zoo's mission is to connect people with wildlife, and when I read Gabriella's letter to Pope Francis I was tremendously moved," said Mr. Dewan. "The letter demonstrated not only that the Zoo connects people with our beautiful animals, but it gives people a platform to connect with one another - whether family, friends and even the Holy Father. The Zoo membership and our 'Zoo on Wheels' program are just small tokens of our appreciation for Gabriella's enthusiasm for the Zoo and its role within our community. We are hopeful that we might be able to welcome both her - and Pope Francis - to the Philadelphia Zoo next year."

During the surprise "Zoo on Wheels" program, Gabriella and her fellow fourth grade classmates experienced a special live animal program, called "Who's Who at the Zoo" led by a team of Philadelphia Zoo experts. The students learned about the amazing abilities and adaptations of animals from around the world and met four animal ambassadors, Oscar, a North American porcupine; Tom, a red-footed tortoise; Susie Q, a nine-banded armadillo; and Dewey, a spectacled owl. Following the program, the Saint Thomas the Apostle students had the opportunity to ask Philadelphia Zoo keepers' questions and examine multiple Zoo artifacts.

"From cultural institutions in the city of Philadelphia, such as The Zoo, to the 60,000 students of the Archdiocese, the enthusiasm for the 2015 World Meeting of Families has been absolutely breathtaking," said Mrs. Farrell. "This surprise from The Zoo truly showcases the significance of this international event and how it is bringing people together of all ages. I am grateful to Mr. Dewan for his engagement, support and willingness to create such a special moment for Gabriella and her classmates at St. Thomas the Apostle. I am also very grateful to Gabriella - and all of the students across the Archdiocese - who wrote such incredible letters to Pope Francis and helped to make his September 2015 visit a reality."

For more information regarding the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia next September, please visit You can also engage the World Meeting of Families - Philadelphia on Facebook (World Meeting of Families 2015) (Encuentro Mundial de las Familias - Filadelfia 2015), Twitter (@WMF2015) (@WMF2015ES) and Instagram (WMF2015).

About World Meetings of Families
Beginning with 1994, The Year of the Family, the Pontifical Council for the Family has been responsible for organizing the World Meetings of Families in Rome (1994); Rio de Janeiro (1997); Rome (2000); Manila (2003); Valencia (2006); Mexico City (2009); Milan (2012); and now, Philadelphia (2015). Since its inception by Saint John Paul II, the World Meeting of Families has sought to strengthen the sacred bonds of family across the globe.

About the Philadelphia Zoo
America's first zoo and one of the region's foremost conservation organizations, the Philadelphia Zoo is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many rare and endangered. By connecting people with wildlife, the Philadelphia Zoo creates joyful discovery and inspires action for animals and habitats. The Philadelphia region's leading family destination, the Zoo welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors last year. The Philadelphia Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. For more information on the Philadelphia Zoo, to become a donor, member or to purchase and print tickets online, visit us at Philadelphia Zoo is a non-smoking facility.


Kenneth A. Gavin
Director of Communications

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