ALPINE, Calif. -- Christmas came early to Lions, Tigers & Bears animal rescue.
Their annual holiday fundraiser includes a silent auction, food trucks, and a visit from Santa Claus. Volunteers placed a Christmas tree in each of the animal sanctuaries, and crowds watched as the big cats and bears opened Christmas presents, filled with toys and their favorite foods, including fruit, fish and nuts.
"I love animals," said 8-year-old Mila Medina. "I would give them a lot of peanut butter."
The gifts also prevent boredom and stimulate the animals' senses, Lions, Tigers & Bears founder and director Bobbi Brink explained.
"It gives them brain activity and keeps them active," Brink said. "They really enjoy playing with the Christmas trees and the fresh smell of the pine."
Brink said the fundraiser is crucial to supporting and growing the animal shelter, which takes in abused and unwanted exotic animals from unhealthy living conditions, like the circus.
"It’s a chance to do some giving for a really worthwhile cause," attendee Kelly Borsum told FOX 5.
Last year the event raised nearly $20,000. This year the goal was to raise $25,000.