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Living Coast Discovery Center Launches Major Fundraising Campaign to Help Weather Extended Closure

CHULA VISTA, CALIF. – The Living Coast Discovery Center, a nonprofit zoo/aquarium that has served the San Diego community for more than 30 years, announced today that it has launched a major fundraising campaign to fill a critical funding gap resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The “Love for Living Coast” campaign aims to raise $500,000 by August 31, which is needed to keep the center afloat until its key income-generating programs can return, which is expected to happen in Spring 2021. As of today, over $364,000 has already been raised. On March 15, the Living Coast was forced to temporarily close its doors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to this, the center had operated with net-positive income for the past six years and had successfully set aside $300,000 in cash reserves. Now, after more than four months of closure to the general public, as well as the cancelation of school groups, day camps and other important revenue-generating programs, the Living Coast is facing a significant financial shortfall that threatens its future. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in San Diego County, and it does not appear that we will be able to return to normal operations anytime soon,” said Executive Director Ben Vallejos. “We do not envision being able to re-open our doors to the public until we can also resume our other fee-based programs that are essential to the Living Coast’s overall financial health.” Approximately 50 percent of the Living Coast’s annual budget is generated through admissions and memberships, combined with income from programs such as field trips, school outreaches, guest experiences, community clean-ups and hikes, facility rentals and the gift shop. Fundraising activities account for the other 50 percent of the center’s operating budget.

Prior to the mandated closure in March, the Living Coast was on pace to have one of its best financial years ever. Now, The Living Coast only has enough financial reserves on hand to provide care and husbandry for its animal ambassadors and employ limited staff through November. Therefore, the Living Coast is reaching out to the community for help securing the additional funding needed to stay afloat until spring of 2021, when demand for general admissions, school programs and other fee-based activities will hopefully return to a more financially sustainable level.

“We are making significant progress toward our goal,” said Lori Coons, director of community engagement and development. “Two incredible community champions have stepped forward – The Nelson Foundation and the JEM Project – with combined contributions of $250,000 that brought us halfway to our goal.”

The Living Coast’s biggest and most important fundraiser of the year, Farm to Bay, is held each August and typically raises about $100,000 to support coastal wildlife, environmental education and sustainability programs throughout the year. Due to COVID-19, this year’s event was held virtually on Saturday, August 1, and raised $108,000 in net proceeds through a combination of auction proceeds, cash donations and event sponsorship. A full list of event sponsors can be found at

Moving the popular annual food/beverage tasting event from the beautiful Living Coast site on San Diego Bay to a virtual experience in front of a computer screen was a challenge for the nonprofit, but its community partners and loyal supporters came through to make it a financial success, despite a challenging fundraising environment. The Farm to Bay proceeds, combined with the contributions from The Nelson Foundation and the JEM Project, brings the current funds raised to $364,000, leaving $136,000 remaining to reach the $500,000 goal by August 31.

“The Living Coast is here today because of the community’s support and generosity over the years,” added Coons. “We are now close to reaching our $500,000 goal, and we hope everyone will join us, with contributions of any size, to ensure that this treasured gem will continue to serve future generations of San Diegans.”

The mission of the Living Coast is to inspire the community to connect with and care for the coastal environment. Contributions to the Love for Living Coast campaign can be made on its website at:

Virtual Programming

During its extended closure, the Living Coast team is continuing to work hard behind the scenes this summer to not only care for its animals, but also to serve local students and families through virtual programming, including:

  • Fee-based programs, including live animal meet-and-greets, birthday parties and scout group programs

  • Free, on-demand online programs, such as composting workshops, animal encounters, and arts/crafts projects

  • Virtual field trips and animal encounters for teachers to supplement their online instruction

About Living Coast Discovery Center

The Living Coast Discovery Center, a 501(c)3 educational zoo and aquarium located within the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge on Sweetwater Marsh, began operating as a non-profit in 2010 after assuming operations of the Chula Vista Nature Center. The Living Coast Discovery Center offers hands-on exhibits and up-close encounters with plant and animal species native to Southern California coastal habitats, including endangered sea turtles, sting rays, leopard sharks, jellies, shorebirds, reptiles and a large collection of raptors such as hawks, falcons, owls, American bald eagle, golden eagle, and more. More information about the Living Coast Discovery Center is available at or (619) 409-5900.


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