© 2023 WGLT
NPR from Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Miller Park Zoo opens its new outdoor educational theater

Jordan Mead
Miller Park Zoo held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday for the new Sullivan Rohrscheib Educational Theater, located between the bald eagle exhibit and the carousel.

Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington has cut the ribbon on its new Sullivan Rohrscheib Educational Theater located between the bald eagle exhibit and the carousel.

The new outdoor theater was made possible because of communitywide donations, the largest donation coming from the Rohrscheib family.

Ciarra and Josh Rohrscheib donated to the theater in memory of their son, Sullivan Rohrscheib. He was born on June 30, 2020, and died shortly after birth due to a congenital heart defect.

Ciarra Rohrscheib said they donated to the educational theater because they wanted their contributions to bring joy to other children in the Bloomington community.

Jordan Mead
Bloomington City Council members Tom Crumpler (left), De Urban (second from left) and Donna Boelen (center) join Miller Park Zoo superintendent Jay Tetzloff and Josh and Graham Rohrscheib for Friday morning's ribbon-cutting ceremony in memory of Sullivan Rohrscheib. The new outdoor educational theater is now open to the public.

“Our older son, Graham, loves the zoo. So, there have been times that Graham and I have come to the zoo every day for weeks on end. So, when we saw that this theater, there was a need in our community, we thought it would be a great opportunity to honor both our community and our son at the same time,” Ciarra Rohrscheib said.

Ciarra Rohrscheib continued, “Of course when you lose a child, I think having a place where you can come and remember your child and also his name is incredible to us as a family. Especially for our little ones, that’s a big deal for us.”

While Sullivan was a newborn when he passed away, Ciarra Rohrscheib said creating the theater in remembrance of Sullivan will allow her other children to have a physical reminder of their brother.

“I think it’s important to remember that we’re always family. Definitely as our kids grow up, that they know he’s a big part of our family. When there’s child loss, whether it’s a newborn or anything else, just remembering that child and their name and bringing them up, I think that would be important to us,” Ciarra Rohrscheib said.

Miller Park Zoo superintendent Jay Tetzloff praised the support from the Rohrscheib family and the community.

“We wanted to honor that vision of their son, and hopefully we’ve done that. Hopefully they’re pleased with the end product. We certainly are,” Tetzloff said.

The new theater is designed for a mix of educational activities, events, band performances and even weddings.

“It’s more space for our community to utilize. I want people to start thinking about the zoo (as a place for events), and we can just be the host. I think that in this case, it’s us educating and engaging people about wildlife,” Tetzloff said.

Through the new theater and other zoo projects, Tetzloff said the goal is to increase community engagement through conservation, education and fun.

President of the Miller Park Zoological Society board Tom Carroll.

“If people aren’t engaged or don’t care about wildlife, they’re going to go extinct. So, it’s up to us as stewards and guardians to do what we can to make sure our great grandkids can see the animals that today we’re seeing," Tetzloff said.

In addition to the Rohrscheib family's contributions, Miller Park Zoological Society board president Tom Carroll said the theater was also funded through communitywide donations and events such as the Stampede race, the Brews at the Zoo and the Zoo Do fundraiser.
“We believe the zoo is an incredible community asset. It provides entertainment and education for children and families in our community, but they also provide support for conservation of endangered species of animals. Our role in conservation is much bigger than you would think in this community,” Carroll said.

Carroll said Miller Park Zoo depends on donations like the Rohrscheib family’s to continually be a public space for Bloomington-Normal families.

“Many people really don’t even know it exists, so whether it’s the educational theater, whether it’s events here or just wandering the zoo and seeing animals, it’s a great opportunity to come out and spend time with family, do enjoyable activities, to learn about some of these animals or learn about the conservation efforts that go here,” Carroll said.

We depend on your support to keep telling stories like this one. You – together with NPR donors across the country – create a more informed public. Fact by fact, story by story. Please take a moment to donate now and fund the local news our community needs. Your support truly makes a difference.

Jordan Mead is a reporting intern at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021.
Related Content