Young animal lover raises funds for San Diego Zoo trip with homemade treats

Published 12:20 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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“Joel’s Sweet Tooth” open Saturdays at Landrum Farmers Market


LANDRUM—Eight-year-old Joel Cox’s passion for animals has led him to start his own business selling homemade sweet treats at the Landrum Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Joel is working to fund a trip to the world-famous San Diego Zoo.

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His mom, Kayla Shealey, a local dog trainer, says Joel has been an animal lover his entire life.

“At one to two years old, all we read were animal encyclopedias; at eighteen months, he could identify and pronounce over 250 animal names,” she says. “He has continued that passion and is very focused when he has a goal. He decided that he wanted to be a zoologist and conservationist. He wants to help protect endangered animals worldwide and start at the San Diego Zoo since it’s the best zoo in the world.” 

When Joel asked his mother about visiting the California zoo, she told him it would be some time before the family could make such a trip. He was very gracious and said, “That’s ok, Mom! I can work at the farmers market and make money!” 

This idea led to the “Joel’s Sweet Tooth” table at the Landrum Farmers Market. Along with his grandmother, Pat Parrish, Joel bakes the homemade treats on Fridays, and then he sells them on Saturday mornings. “Joel’s Sweet Tooth” offers various cookies, like orange dreamsicles and toffee oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and rice crispy treats. Joel also handles all the customers and makes the change. 

He has now raised almost half of what is needed for the family trip while becoming a farmer’s market favorite. Joel has been learning many valuable lessons, like the value of hard work and how to interact with customers. He often engages with shoppers by answering tricky animal questions or drawing a shopper’s favorite animal.

Joel has recently begun taking biology and zoology courses designed for his age group and dreams of one day spending time with animal caretakers, hopefully at the San Diego Zoo. 

“I really want to be a conservationist when I grow up and be able to work with animals,” Joel says. “One of the main reasons I want to go to San Diego Zoo is because the conservationists there are attempting to bring back the Northern White Rhino, which is almost extinct. There are only two left in the world.”

His pitch to potential customers is a simple one. He says, “Hi, my name is Joel. I love animals, and I’m selling cookies so my family and I can visit the San Diego Zoo.”