ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – When visiting the Abilene Zoo, you typically see the animals through a gate. Very rarely do you see someone getting the chance to go behind the scenes and see the animals up close, unless you’re an employee. But for one Abilene 11-year-old, the zoo really treated him with a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Ian Metcalf, 11, raised $500 in less than one day. Ian said he raised the money to help the Abilene Zoo with its 10-year master plan. 

“When I heard about the 10-year master plan I felt really excited about it, so I wanted to donate,” Ian explained. 

With the help and support of Ian’s entire family, he took on a big job with a tried and true business plan.

“We had, like, a lemonade and cookie stand,” Ian said. “Lots of people were donating, and also people were donating online!”

Abilene Zoo officials expressed their most profound appreciation, by inviting Ian and his family to meet his favorite animal: The capybara, the largest species of rodent.

Just in time, too, as the zoo just welcomed a new litter of capybara pups just five days earlier.

Crystal and Joe Metcalf, Ian’s parents, said they had no idea their boy’s donation would lead to this, but were grateful to be part of his adventure.  

“He’s got a big heart, and anything he’s passionate about, we want to be supportive and not get in the way,” said Joe, Ian’s dad. “To see how we can lift him up so he can continue to do the things he loves.”

This once-in-a-lifetime experience left Ian with wide eyes and a big smile, as he told KTAB/KRBC he never thought he would be able to be face-to-face with a capybara. 

Ian said visiting the Abilene Zoo is one of his favorite things to do and when he gets older, he hopes to own a zoo of his own!