Congratulations, Marjorie! And thanks, everyone, for your encouraging words on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and (of course) my blog entry about Logan Elliot! I know you won’t be surprised when I tell you that Logan’s already got quite the fan base on social media, and has captured the hearts of many.
Meet Gabriela McBride, the 2017 addition to American Girl’s prestigious “Girl of the Year” lineup. The fourth African-American doll in their increasingly diverse line-up, Gabriela joins Melody Ellison, the black “BeForever” doll from Detroit, in making her debut on this blog.
Born into a family of artists in Philadelphia, Gabriela expresses herself through dance and poetry, both of which help her overcome her problems with stuttering. Like most American Girls, she eventually lifts her voice in support of a cause she believes in. Her active support helps save her beloved Community Arts Center.
Just so you know: Gabriela’s story comes to life in the companion book that bears her name. She has her own activity page, and–exciting news, right up her alley–American Girl is partnering with Scholastic on a special project in April to coincide with (and help celebrate) National Poetry Month! You can preview Gabriela’s first novel here; and if you enter the prize giveaway contest at the end of this blog post, you might find yourself among the five lucky winners who receive a free copy of her book!
What more can I tell you about Gabriela that isn’t immediately obvious? She has warm brown eyes and a sweet face, and oh, those signature curls! But best of all, for active girls like me: Gabriela’s built for adventure. I wanted to show her a special place in my community. Thanks to their gracious hospitality, we enjoyed an all-access tour of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
Rescue. Rehabilitation. Release. Research. PMMC does all of this and more, in support of marine animals stranded on beaches along the Orange County, California coast.
Most rescued pinnipeds are severely malnourished and dehydrated. Some have respiratory illnesses and other diseases; still others have injuries caused by fishing lines and hooks, human-inflicted wounds, shark bites, and parasites. This little girl was entangled in a gill net, but is well on her way to recovery.
Working hand-in-glove with trained volunteers, PMMC’s staff employ their special brand of magic. Lots of individuals, each contributing his or her unique talents–similar to what Gabriela experienced onstage at her beloved Community Arts Center.
Fun Fact: Dehydrated animals drink “fish milkshakes,” a customized blend of fish, Pedialyte, warm water, vitamins, and medication, fed directly into their’stomachs through flexible tubes. A typical “milkshake” costs anywhere from $4.00 to $5.00, and is oftentimes subsidized by generous donors. Of course, as soon as the animals are hydrated and stable, they are weaned onto whole fish–like the herring beside Gabriela, pictured above.
At PMMC, there’s plenty of space to swim, soak, snooze, and otherwise savor their temporary quarters.
While the average length of stay is three months, treatment plans depend on the nature of of each animal’s illness and injuries.
Direct contact is kept to a minimum, to help keep PMMC’s charges from getting too comfortable in their temporary quarters. Although the workers can get quite attached, their highest priority is the animal’s welfare and eventual release.
After visiting their treatment facility, we wandered through PMMC’s educational exhibits, where we learned more about marine life and the importance of preserving their natural habitats. Because the outdoor pool was occupied, we were able to watch three healthier, longer-term residents play tag and perform impromptu water ballets. (Webcam link, for future reference.)
Here at PMMC, you’ll make lots of new friends–returning locals, and visitors from all over the world! Heather Singer, for instance, who hails from Philadelphia. She came for the sea critters, but couldn’t resist a quick snapshot with Gabriela. Happy smiles, multiplied…
It was a really fun outing, and we plan to visit often. But nothing beat the excitement of watching PMMC’s rehabilitated animals swim out to sea again! Brought by rescuers into the Pacific Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Center in October 2016, two healthy sea lions– “Cave Woman” and “Struggles” –made their way back to the ocean in late January. They stole the show, rushing out of their crates, and when they reached the water’s edge…well, just watch it. Your hearts will grow three sizes, I promise you.
Here’s Gabriela again, saying goodbye and good luck to her new friends.
And now for the book giveaway contest! All you have to do is add a comment to this entry, answering one of two questions:
1) What do you like best about the Gabriela Doll? or
2) What impresses you most about the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) in Laguna Beach, California?
You have until midnight on Valentine’s Day to enter. Good luck!