World War II veteran among 400 volunteers that power Brookfield Zoo

Brookfield Zoo is celebrating its volunteers in honor of National Volunteer Week.

When you visit the monkeys at the suburban zoo, one longtime volunteer wants to make sure you know what's up. Frank Veselak has been answering questions from visitors inside the Tropic World area for 34 years. At 96-years-old, the World War II veteran is the zoo's oldest volunteer.

"I love doing this. I do. I love all the animals here and I love talking to guests and also the keepers. They're very helpful," said Veselak.

Veselak is one of about 400 volunteers who help at the zoo. They help educate visitors about the animals and find their way around the 216-acre zoo.

"They can tell you where to find funnel cake, how to get around and you know, the most important question, where are the restrooms. Volunteers are extremely important here at the zoo because they bring the passion and love for animals and saving wildlife and nature to all of our guests," said Regi Mezydlo, Director of Volunteer Engagement, Brookfield Zoo.


The volunteers give their time freely and say they get a lot in return.

"It's very accepting and warm. It's even another family to rely on," said Linda Padilla about volunteering at the zoo.

Padilla has watched her daughter, who has intellectual and development disabilities, blossom during her 15 years volunteering. Stephanie Padilla says she's learned people skills, plus there's this perk.

"I just like seeing kids happy," said Stephanie.

The zoo is not accepting new volunteers currently, and don’t expect Frank Veselak’s spot to open soon.

"Next year I'll have 35 years so I'll see how I feel," he said.