Brookfield Zoo's sloth helps a grieving family heal

A local zoo has stepped up to help a family in mourning find peace.

They lost something precious, but found that a day at the Brookfield Zoo filled a bit of the holes in their hearts.

For Cassidy Aldridge and her family, a sloth encounter means a lot more than you might imagine.

“It's been a tough 2019 for sure, just one thing after another,” said mother Cassidy Aldridge.

The family of three was expecting a baby girl - Evelyn - to join the family this spring.

“Since we had found out were pregnant, and we found out we were having a girl, we wanted to do something a little out of the norm for a nursery, we decided we were going to do sloths,” Cassidy said.

“I know that sloths are super popular right now, but it’s like - we're totally jumping on that bandwagon. We're going for it,” said father Jason Aldridge.

But when Cassidy was just six months pregnant, she suddenly lost her baby.

“We decided that something to do to kind of bring us a little bit of closure or joy,” she said.

The family thought what better way to honor little Evelyn than to meet a real life sloth.

“I feel like her spirit animal is like a sloth,” said sister Hannah.

The St. Louis family called their local zoo to set up a behind-the-scenes tour to meet a sloth.

“It meant a lot to us,” Cassidy said.

But then, just as things were starting to look up, the family received even more devastating news.

“I got a phone call that their sloth Camden had died. Which was gut-wrenching to us. Not only the loss of our daughter, but then we go to meet this animal that is going to bring us some sort of peace, and he dies too,” Cassidy said.

But she wasn't about to give up. She asked the Saint Louis Zoo to reach out other zoos in the Midwest, and Brookfield Zoo stepped up.

“They're like - when do you want to come, when are you going to be here, how can we help you,” Cassidy said.

The family made the 6-hour trek to Chicago -- all to meet Brookfield’s sloth, "Evie."

“We wouldn't come up here just to meet a sloth if it didn't mean what it means to us,” Jason said.

“We wouldn't be here if it wasn’t for Brookfield. If it wasn't for them saying - we want to turn a tragic event into something beautiful for a family, and they're the ones that are making this happen for us,” Cassidy said. “It was everything that we wanted. Truly. We are so, so grateful for that opportunity.”

“She was the cutest thing that I've ever seen in my whole entire life,” Hannah said. “I think sloths are a great animal and it meant a lot to meet one."

“She was so active, too. Maybe she subconsciously knew why we were here. It just brought us so much joy. So much joy,” Cassidy added.