One of the year’s most exciting moments for the kids at Valley View Elementary School in Los Angeles is the visit of John Valentine and his amazing animals. Most of them are creepy-crawly, slithery creatures that usually make the kids squeal or want to run.
This time, snakes are draped around their necks, and spiders and scorpions are allowed to walk on their hands and their fears are confronted in person.
Sunny Dallafior, a native of Tampa, Fla., took over the nature tour, and spent four months with Valentine learning all the special needs for the skinks, lizards, snakes and more that were part of the tour.
“John wanted to make sure that the right person was taking over all his animals, and I’m honored that he let me have them,” says Sunny. “He is doing well.”
Valentine had a bearded dragon lizard that would nod a “hello” and kiss him on command. That animal died recently after a ripe age of 16. The wallaby was “grandfathered in” by the state for Valentine, but couldn’t be switched to Sunny, so the animal was found a good home out of state.
Sunny, who has two children and a personal love for turtles, is also involved in wildlife conservation efforts with her family, through organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and Wildlife Warriors. She has worked with rehabilitators and volunteered in shelters for displaced animals.
The Traveling Nature Class has now resumed throughout Southern California, with the amazing animals in her mini-zoo.
“Because I am someone who truly loves children and animals, my role is important – and a dream come true,” says Sunny.
What’s the favorite? The hedgehog? The lizard that is as long as the children are tall? The hairy friendly tarantula? The bright green tree frogs? It’s hard to tell.
“All the kids like a different animal, it depends on the school, or the class,” laughs Sunny.
Valentine, now 67, retired after 16 years traveling throughout the San Fernando and San Gabriel Valleys, Santa Monica, Orange County and more.
“I loved un-teaching people of everything they know about the animals they are afraid of,” Valentine says, and he still gives talks about the animals, when asked.
He draped four-foot snakes around the necks of children who are at-first terrified of snakes. He showed people how to pet tarantulas and how to approach lizards, which is what Sunny does now.
For more information, see: valentinestravelingnatureclass.com