John Ball Zoo increases accessibility


John Ball Zoo Courtesy John Ball Zoo

More families will be able to visit the zoo this season.

John Ball Zoo altered its JUMP program to offer free admissions to anyone who has MI Bridge and WIC cards in Michigan, and up to nine people in the same household, starting April 3. MI Bridges benefits are given to a family of four whose household income is $33,000 per year or less.

“We are excited to announce this important evolution to the JUMP program and thankful to the sponsors who help make it happen,” said Mike Lomonaco, John Ball Zoo chief development and community engagement officer. “John Ball Zoo is committed to inspiring every guest to be active participants in the conservation of wildlife and our natural environment. We believe everyone should have the opportunity to experience and cultivate a positive connection to wildlife and wild places and seek to include all members of our community regardless of economic status or other limiting factors.”

The change to the program comes after ongoing conversations with 19 nonprofits and cultural organizations throughout West Michigan, along with 37 other Association of Zoos & Aquariums-accredited organizations to identify opportunities for improvement with the JUMP program. 

“Through this work, we learned that there were many unintended barriers to providing accessibility, including language and culture, homelessness, changes to home environments through a school year, and increasing costs,” Lomonaco said. “In addition, families without children, those who are not yet school-aged, and senior citizens were not fully addressed within the previous JUMP program model.” 

The JUMP program was founded in 1998 and was initially focused on providing free admissions to families of school-aged children in Kent County who qualified for the free and reduced federal lunch program. 

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