Supporter Spotlight on Membership

The Sanctuary would like to highlight three generous supporters of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, each driven by a profound passion for animal welfare and conservation. Just like so many of our supporters, their unique stories inspire and invite others to join their cause, becoming part of The Elephant Sanctuary's mission. If you're interested in "joining our herd" and becoming a member of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, learn more about the program benefits here.

Meet Colleen

Colleen O'Connell

Growing up in Northeastern Ohio, animals have always held a special place in the heart of Colleen O’Connell. Reflecting on childhood memories, her earliest recollection involves the joy of receiving a cocker spaniel puppy on her third birthday, highlighting the profound impact animals have had on her life since a young age. However, it wasn't until a PBS documentary focusing on elephants captured her attention that her fascination with elephants truly ignited.

Upon discovering The Elephant Sanctuary, located in Hohenwald, Tennessee, Colleen was captivated by its unique origins. Eager to immerse herself in The Sanctuary's mission, Colleen embraced opportunities to contribute, from Volunteer Days onsite to participating in the docent program.

“When my life morphed to a point where I was able to make regular financial donations,” says Colleen. “It was only natural that I earmarked a bit of change for The Sanctuary each month.” Colleen expressed her admiration for The Sanctuary's growth, the dedication of its staff, and the global attention it has garnered.

From presenting to groups about her passion for elephant conservation to witnessing The Sanctuary's expanding reach and impact, Colleen finds fulfillment in knowing they are contributing to a cause that resonates deeply with her. She takes pride in The Sanctuary's partnerships with like-minded organizations worldwide, as well as the transformation of each elephant finding solace and companionship within its grounds.

Ultimately, her journey from Northeastern Ohio to Hohenwald reflects a profound appreciation for the intelligent, social, and gentle nature of elephants, reaffirming her belief in the importance of advocating for the well-being of these magnificent creatures and the vital role sanctuaries like The Elephant Sanctuary play in their conservation efforts.

Meet Rosanne

Rosanne Sietins

In the late 1990s, Rosanne Sietins stumbled upon an article in The Tennessean newspaper that would later pave the way for her collaborations with The Elephant Sanctuary, spanning over 22 years. The article showcased an art show featuring pieces created by Tarra, the founding elephant of The Elephant Sanctuary. “I kick myself to this day,” Rosanne explains. “I didn’t go because I didn’t think I could afford a piece of art at the time, especially done by such a special elephant.” Despite her initial hesitation to attend the art show, Rosanne's curiosity about The Sanctuary lingered, and she took a different approach. She reached out to The Sanctuary, expressing her interest in contributing through donations of office supplies and volunteering. At that time, volunteer opportunities were not available, but Rosanne's persistence paid off. Years later, a day came when, in bold red letters across The Sanctuary's website, she saw the words "Volunteer Opportunities" flashing. Without hesitation, she signed up.

Her initiation into the world of elephant advocacy unfolded on a warm, humid Tennessee summer day, where she found herself painting what would later be known as Q Barn. Amidst other volunteers and staff members, Rosanne discovered a passion for The Sanctuary's mission that would shape the next two decades of her life.

"I really knew nothing about elephants at the time, but I was curious to know why it was called a ‘sanctuary’ and why elephants in Tennessee? The best way to find out back then was by donating and becoming a volunteer. I learned so much that first day on site, that I have not looked back," Rosanne reminisces.

Her commitment to The Sanctuary transcended physical boundaries. Not content with just contributing on-site, Rosanne set up information booths, engaged in speaking events, and became an ambassador for The Sanctuary. An active member of P.E.O International, Rosanne made it a personal mission to introduce all P.E.O chapters in Middle Tennessee and surrounding areas to The Sanctuary, and now is working her way through Pennsylvania, too. Her dedication to spreading awareness and educating the public about elephants, both in human care and in the wild, made her an integral part of The Sanctuary's outreach efforts.

In 2021, Rosanne relocated to Pennsylvania but remained steadfast in her commitment to The Elephant Sanctuary. Recognizing the growing interest in elephant conservation, in the spring of 2022, she embarked on 34-day journey, covering 3,800 miles on the road. Rosanne took to speaking engagements in Tennessee, Northern Alabama, and Kentucky, sharing her passion for The Sanctuary and elephants with diverse audiences.

"I’m out there doing something for The Sanctuary every day," says Rosanne, who has earned the affectionate moniker of "The Elephant Lady" in her new town of Lancaster. Her tireless efforts stand as a testament to the profound impact one individual can have when fueled by passion and dedication to a cause larger than themselves.

 Meet Polly

Marion 'Polly' Weber

Marion Weber, also known as Polly, a nickname bestowed upon her by her two elder sisters, boasts an extensive background dedicated to working, volunteering, and contributing to global conservation initiatives. She stands as a steadfast donor with a long history of supporting The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee as a sustaining member and part of the VIP program. "I have always had a passion for animals, even as a young girl," says Polly.

While she dedicates her time to rescuing and helping dogs along the US-Mexico border and in her town of Tucson, Arizona, Polly concurrently collaborates with Dr. John Koprowski, a distinguished professor and dean at the Huab School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming. Their joint efforts focus on outreach and marketing, with Dr. Koprowski's research specializing in the behavior and ecology of wildlife in human-impacted environments. Polly is particularly passionate about the application of community-based conservation to enhance success, a cause she proudly aligns herself with.

In addition to her collaboration with Dr. Koprowski, Polly engages in marketing endeavors at the University of Arizona, specifically around research centered on dry riverbeds and their ability to self-heal with effluent water—a process that contributes to maintaining cool temperatures, fostering plant growth, and increasing wildlife in the deserts of Arizona. Needless to say, Polly's days are undeniably packed with meaningful pursuits. "It keeps me busy, and it keeps me happy," she asserts, reflecting the fulfillment she finds in her multifaceted contributions to conservation causes and her commitment to making a positive impact on both the environment and wildlife.

Discussing the crisis affecting wildlife, particularly elephants, Polly emphasizes, "These issues are human-created and should be human-resolved." Her interest in elephants ignited during a month-long stay in Africa, where she had the privilege of observing the majestic creatures in the wild. Polly was captivated by their intelligence and what she described as a remarkable "sense of empathy."

Upon returning to the United States, Polly discovered The Elephant Sanctuary and its dedicated efforts to educate the public. She acknowledges the challenges faced by The Sanctuary, situated in a rural town in Tennessee and not accessible to the public. Despite these limitations, Polly commends The Sanctuary for its strong focus on outreach. "It's with great satisfaction that their groundbreaking success at The Elephant Sanctuary is now recognized on a global scale."

Colleen, Rosanne, and Polly’s stories are not just those of sustaining donors or long-running volunteerism; they are narratives of unwavering commitment to conservation, education, and community — a journey that has helped shape the lives of the elephants at The Sanctuary and around the world. We are grateful for all of our many generous donors.

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