Aviary penguin meet-and-greet: 'They actually volunteered to come out'

Meet DJ: The Aviary's penguin who volunteers for meet-and-greets

It's pretty black and white, penguins are adorable. It's hard not to pass up an opportunity to meet one.

I joined a crowd of kids and adults in their pajamas at the National Aviary's Penguins and Pajamas after-hours event on Thursday.

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For the first meet-and-greet session, families gathered around a table with DJ the penguin perched on top. Kids munched on popcorn with wide-eyes as the aviary's Cathy Schlott shared fun facts and answered questions.

I was curious myself. How do they pick the special penguin who gets all this attention? The answer was surprising, but also adorable.

"They actually volunteered to come out," Schlott said. "We focus on positive reinforcement here at the aviary. I went up the steps, called and whoever volunteered to come out is who I got out."

I quickly ran into some pretty big penguin fans. Wyatt Herschell wore penguin pajamas, slippers and had penguin stuffed animals to accompany him.


His mom, Cheri, from Zelienople said he's loved penguins ever since he was 3 years old. It was then that he met Happy the penguin at the aviary during a paid close encounter and the rest is history.

Maura Mummendey from Sewickley brought her son Caiden to see the penguins.

"When I was pregnant with him we couldn't figure out a name," Maura said. "So we came to the aviary with my husband and we saw a little arm band on a penguin named Caiden, and we fell in love with it because it was different. So, this is Caiden!"

The next meet-and-greet event will be Vivan the sloth's first birthday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 22.