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Living Coast Discovery Center Raises Record-Setting $695,000 to Weather Extended Closure

CHULA VISTA, CALIF. – The Living Coast Discovery Center announced today that it raised over $695,000 in a major fundraising campaign launched in August to fill a critical funding gap resulting from its extended closure due to the COVID-19 crisis. The “Love for Living Coast” campaign originally aimed to raise $500,000 by August 31 to keep the center afloat until its income-generating programs can return, which is anticipated to happen in Spring 2021. Today’s announcement represents the largest fundraiser in the Living Coast’s history. “The outpouring of support from the San Diego community was truly overwhelming, especially at a time when so many are struggling,” said Executive Director Ben Vallejos. “When people heard about our need, they quickly rose to the challenge, supporting us in ways both big and small, from making financial gifts to purchasing memberships to spreading the word on social media. It is a testament to the deep connections that people have made with us over the years. They want to see us thrive, to fulfill our mission and serve future generations of environmental stewards.” Major contributors to the fundraising campaign included the J.W. Sefton Foundation and the City of Chula Vista, as well as the Nelson Foundation and the JEM Project, whose $250,000 donation match kicked off the campaign. The $695,000 funding total also included $108,000 in net proceeds from the Living Coast’s virtual “Farm to Bay @ Home” event on Aug. 1. Additional supporters included Collins Aerospace, Chery and Greg Cox, John and Ricki Willet, an anonymous donor, Ron and Guadalupe Cohn, Seven Mile Casino and KSDY Channel 50.

Prior to its closure to the public in mid-March, the Living Coast was on pace to have one of its best financial years ever. It had operated with net-positive income for the past six years and had successfully set aside $300,000 in cash reserves. This was due, in part, to the SDG&E Living Coast Discovery Center South Bay Enhancement Fund established by SDG&E at The San Diego Foundation in 2015. However, after five 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 faced a significant financial shortfall this summer that threatened its future.

While care and husbandry continues for all animal ambassadors that call the Living Coast home, the center plans to remain closed to the public until Spring 2021, when demand for general admissions, educational programs and other fee-based programs is expected to return to a more financially sustainable level.

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.

While the Living Coast is closed to the public, guests can enjoy a unique new wildlife experience – being escorted on a private two-hour tour with a highly trained educator and an up-close encounter with one of the center’s many animal ambassadors, including a variety of birds, reptiles and marine species.

The Living Coast team is also continuing to serve the community through virtual programming, 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

The mission of the Living Coast is to inspire the community to connect with and care for the coastal environment. While the campaign goal was met, additional funding is still needed to ensure the Living Coast can remain afloat should demand for programs and general admissions not resume to full capacity in Spring 2021. Contributions can be made through the Living Coast’s website.

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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