An Angel Visits Sea Mammal Rescue Center


An anonymous animal lover stopped on Christmas Eve at Laguna Beach’s Pacific Marine Mammal Center and stuffed a pile of bills eventually amounting to $5,700 into the hands of a surprised volunteer.

 “I was so taken back by her generosity that tears started flowing down my face and I gave her a big hug and told her she was our Christmas angel and thanked her for helping us,” recounted JoAnn Smith, whose reaction apparently prompted the woman to hand over still more money.

The donor told Smith she cares about animals and its mission rescuing sea mammals, but wanted her donation to remain anonymous. Nevertheless, a young girl standing near the front door with her mother who observed the transaction asked the woman about her donation. The donor told the girl she was rich and this was her way of helping.

“It really made my Christmas that someone was this generous and kind to help us,” Smith said.

The center has previously been the recipient of four-figure donations, but not anonymously or in person, said Melissa Sciacca, director of the center, which has spent over $80,000 for fish and $20,000 on medication treating 265 marine mammals, mostly California sea lions, in 2009. In June, a record 107 animals were in the center’s care.

The unexpected gift will go towards the costs of rescuing such patients as the center’s current occupants, two malnourished sea lion pups, whose revival will cost about $1,350 each over three to four months.

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