Saturday, April 10, 2010

Joey Receives Full Scholarship to Georgetown University

Before there was Lara, Barney and Ollie there was Joey.

We met 9 years ago this week as I was walking my two dogs, Truman and Henry, and carrying my umbrella cockatoo, Lucy. Joey was 9.

I heard a voice ask, "What is your bird's name?" and turned around to discover what looked to be a character
out of a Walt Disney movie -- a slightly built boy with rosy cheeks wearing a navy blue sweater and carrying a bouquet of flowers he said he had picked for his teacher.

The next day I saw Joey again, this time walking up my driveway inquiring if he could come in to my house and see the bird's cage.

When I asked to meet his parents, he explained that it was only him and his dad and that they lived with a family across the street.

Thus began a special friendship founded on a mutual affection for animals.

Shortly after that Joey took me on my first roller coaster ride at Knottsberry Farm, a prize for winning a fundraising competition sponsored by the Rancho Coastal Humane Society. We were a great team: I drove the car from strip malls to car dealerships as Joey jumped out and hustled the owners and store managers.

It wasn't just domesticated animals he loved. It was tarantulas, lizards and ferrets.

At one point he saved the day when I was distressed to discover a family of mice living under my refrigerator. After catching and releasing the adults in the park, Joey fashioned a home for the baby in a plexiglas cage, complete with exercise equipment, that we bought at PetSmart. After beefing up the wee mouse, Joey proudly released him in the park to join his relatives who we were sure were waiting.

In April 2002 Joey delivered the most eloquent speech of his young career. It was to the Encinitas City Council advocating for a measure that would ban circuses, rides and and other for-profit animal acts in the city. It passed. Afterwards a councilman who opposed the ban approached Joey to shake his hand. "I'm sure glad you're only 10," he said. "Otherwise I would be afraid of losing my seat in the next election."

Well, that councilman is still in office and his grace period could be coming to an end as Joey, now 18, contemplates a career in international relations, maybe even politics.

The sky's the limit now that he has been accepted to the distinguished Foreign Service School at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the alma mater of leaders including President Bill Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

What's more, Joey received a full scholarship valued at more than $225,000.

His response?

"Now I really will be able to make a difference in the world."

I was honored to be Joey's guest last night at a reception sponsored by Georgetown University for the Class of 2014 and their parents.


  1. that photo of Joey, Lucy, the dog and Fred looks like typical Fred behavior :)

  2. Joey has been an amazing kid from the beginning. I'm so glad he's had you in his life. You are a tremendous part of who he is. You must know that. :)

  3. Mary-Ellen DrummondMay 10, 2010 at 11:29 AM

    Bravo, Joey, on your full scholarship to Georgetown! That's incredible. And Brava, Miss Lillian, for being such a wonderful mentor and encourager to Joey! I'm so proud of all that you two have accomplished. Congratulations on making a difference in each others' lives, as well as making the world a better place!