BACK TO THE WILD®, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. (Details)

Animal Planet Press Release


November 1, 2006
Silver Spring, Maryland

Animal Planet announced that Castalia, Ohio, resident Mona Rutger is the recipient of its first-ever HERO OF THE YEAR campaign. Presented in partnership with the makers of Fresh Step® litter, HERO OF THE YEAR recognizes and celebrates animal lovers across the country who invest their time, talent and spirit to help animals in their community.

For the past 15 years, Mona, together with her husband Bill, has owned and operated Back To The Wild®, a volunteer wildlife rehabilitation and nature education center. Every year, Back To The Wild® rescues more than 2,000 injured or orphaned wild animals and is able to return more than 60 percent back into the wild. Mona consistently puts in long hours, especially while tending to the many baby birds and animals that require constant care. One of her deepest passions is teaching future generations the great need to preserve and protect our natural world; Back To The Wild® educates more than 53,000 children and adults annually, helping people to have a better understanding and appreciation for wildlife.

Mona's passion for wildlife traces back to her childhood. As a child, she had the privilege to grow up in the country on a farm, spending most of her playtime outdoors and almost always with animals. "I loved exploring fields, creeks and woods to discover insects, reptiles, birds or any other animals I could find," says Mona. "Watching them live their wild lives gave me feelings of awe and amazement, excitement and peace and an overwhelming desire to want to know everything I could learn about them."

Mona's announcement comes in conjunction with Animal Planet's HEROES WEEK (beginning October 30) and the airing of premiere episodes of ANIMAL COPS HOUSTON October 30 - November 4, at 10 PM ET/PT. As the winner of HERO OF THE YEAR, Mona receives a trip for two to Hawaii, and Animal Planet donates $10,000 to Back To The Wild® which will benefit injured and orphaned wild animals.

Mona is extremely pleased and honored by her HERO OF THE YEAR distinction, appreciating that so many people support and believe in the mission of Back To The Wild® and her efforts in wildlife rehabilitation and nature education. "My work is truly a labor of love," says Mona. "The real heroes are my supporters and volunteers who make it possible for me to do this work; the public who call in to find help for an injured wild animal; the school children and their teachers who inspire me with their desire to learn and help care for the planet; and especially my husband and family who give me so much moral support and allow this very demanding passion of mine to also consume their lives."

"I am thrilled to receive this gift to help us continue our work," says Mona. "This award will help provide a much-needed avenue to reach the public nationwide, and it will allow me to act as an ambassador for all wildlife rehabilitators who need the support of their communities."

"Many people have a connection to animals, but some people rise to the challenge and take that connection to another level by dedicating their time and energy to the protection and preservation of animals," says Maureen Smith, executive vice president and general manager of Animal Planet. "Honoring individuals who are making a difference for animal welfare in their communities is just one way to show Animal Planet's commitment, and we are pleased the makers of Fresh Step® litter have partnered with us on this initiative."

The search for the HERO OF THE YEAR was an eight-month process, beginning with online, public nominations followed by a panel of judges who determined ten finalists. Finally, the voting returned to the public forum as Animal Planet viewers visited to vote on their favorite finalist.

As part of Animal Planet's HERO OF THE YEAR campaign, features Guido Daniele's amazing transformations of human hands into animals. Guido uses traditional portrait techniques - photography and oil paints - to help him create life-like animals on people's hands such as dogs, elephants and birds. Nominees for HERO OF THE YEAR are lending a hand to improve animal welfare, and Guido's art symbolizes their efforts. In addition, contains information on how people can be heroes in their own community.

Animal Planet, available in 88 million homes nationwide, is the only television network dedicated to the emotional connection between humans and animals. The network brings people of all ages together by tapping into a fundamental fascination with animals through an array of fresh programming that includes humor, competition, drama and spectacle from the animal kingdom. Discovery Networks, U.S., a unit of Discovery Communications, Inc., operates and manages Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Travel Channel, Discovery Health Channel, Discovery HD Theater, Discovery Kids Channel, Discovery Times Channel, The Science Channel, Discovery Home Channel, Military Channel, Discovery en Espanol, FitTV, Discovery Kids en Espanol and Discovery Travel & Living (Viajar y Vivir). The unit also distributes BBC AMERICA.

Fresh Step is a part of the The Clorox Pet Products Company, which is a subsidiary of The Clorox Company, headquartered in Oakland, Calif. The Clorox Company is a leading manufacturer and marketer of consumer products with fiscal year 2005 revenues of $4.4 billion. Clorox markets some of consumers' most trusted and recognized brand names, including its namesake bleach and cleaning products, Armor All® and STP® auto care products, Fresh Step® and Scoop Away® cat litters, Kingsford® charcoal briquets, Hidden Valley® and K C Masterpiece® dressings and sauces, Brita® water-filtration systems, and Glad® bags, wraps and containers. With 7,600 employees worldwide, the company manufactures products in 25 countries and markets them in more than 100 countries. Clorox is committed to making a positive difference in the communities where its employees work and live. Founded in 1980, The Clorox Company Foundation has awarded cash grants totaling more than $62.3 million to nonprofit organizations, schools and colleges; and in fiscal year 2005 alone made product donations valued at $4.9 million. For more information about Clorox, visit For more information about Fresh Step, visit

NOTICE: This is a page for the BACK TO THE WILD® wildlife rehabilitation center in Castalia, Ohio. This material is used with permission.

Comments or questions regarding the BACK TO THE WILD®
rehabilitation center should be directed to Mona Rutger at:

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