I recently participated in Disneyland's "Give a Day, Get a Disney Day" program. The idea is that you sign up for a specific service opportunity (through Disneyland and the HandsOn Network), and then after you give your service, you are compensated with a voucher for a free ticket to Disneyland. They're only giving away one million of these free tickets, so if you want one, you better volunteer soon!
Of all the opportunities for service listed in my area, I chose to volunteer at The Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy. When I got there, I was with a group of about a dozen or more people; they had 45 total in that day alone who were volunteering for the Disney Day. Here is what I did for my service:
1. I cut cardboard into small squares about 4" in length. We were told these were for the birds: they colored the squares with food coloring, then hung them as an "enrichment" (her word, not mine) activity for the birds to tear apart. Sounds fun to me. I didn't mind the cutting; it was easy, and I enjoyed calculating how best to cut each box so the pieces would come out a decent size.
2. I washed plastic cups. The aquarium had bagels and beverages available for the volunteers, and the cups in use were some plastic ones donated by a hotel. They're that plastic that is cheap enough to be thrown away, but thick enough to be re-used. An Aquarium volunteer and I washed those.
3. I burned stuff. Honestly, if you know how much I love burning stuff you'll understand that this was like giving me cookies for having eaten my ice cream. I got to melt the ends of straps so that the edges wouldn't fray.
4. I sat in a room. They had a little theatre—fewer than 50 chairs—in which they present their animal shows. I sat in that room as they brought the birds in for the upcoming show. If anyone came into the theatre I was to tell them to get lost. Just kidding, I was to tell them when the show started, THEN tell them to get lost. :o)
5. I burned more stuff.
6. All the volunteers were taken into the theatre, and we watched the animal show! They had hissing cockroaches, a scorpion, a tarantula, a snake, parrots, and macaws, and they were holding all of them (not all at once). I'd never really heard a parrot "speak" in real life before, and that was amazing. Another cookie for eating my ice cream!
7. I went on a backstage tour of the aquarium and saw the parts that the public will never see. I saw the back of the shark tank, and also asked the volunteer coordinator a bunch of questions about sharks and people falling into tanks and stuff like that, which is essential to know for my novel.
And that was it! We were free to wander around the aquarium if we wanted, or leave if we wanted. I actually returned to the volunteer room and finished burning the straps really quickly (honestly, I enjoy burning things), then wandered the aquarium. Sting rays are soft and squishy and slimy, and I loved touching them.
Can you believe that? 2.75 hours of fun, and I got a free Disneyland ticket out of it! I'm planning on returning to the aquarium sometime when they're not so crowded (i.e. any day but Saturday) to watch the animals and read more about them. What a lovely place to be.