John “Five for Fighting” Ondrasik performs for America’s Teaching Zoo fundraiser


Butch the Bobcat high-fives an EATM student during the Concert for Cats event on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, at Moorpark College, CA. Photo credit: Valeri Roussak

By Valeri Roussak

America’s Teaching Zoo hosted a benefit concert called “Concert for Cats” to raise money to build a new habitat for the zoo’s two tigers, Neil and Karma.

The Sep. 10 event consisted of a performance by singer-songwriter John Ondrasik, better known by his stage name Five for Fighting. Moorpark students also performed before Ondrasik to showcase their musical talents.

Zoo Operations and Media Contact, Mara Rodriguez, explained how this fundraiser came to be.

“We were hosting an event at the zoo for our lion’s birthday,” Rodriguez stated. “Carla Ondrasik, John’s wife, came up to me and said that her family loves our zoo and her husband would love to put on a benefit concert to raise money for the tiger exhibit.”

The zoo gates opened at 4:30 p.m. for the start of the VIP event. Tickets were $125 per person and covered a tour of the zoo, reserved seating for the concert and a meet & greet with John Ondrasik. After the tour, guests walked to the main campus on the lawn to find seating for the main event.

Singer-songwriter John Ondrasik performs a cover of “American Pie” during the Concert for Cats event hosted by America’s Teaching Zoo on Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, at Moorpark College. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

General admission with seating was $65. Lawn seating was $55 for guests to bring blankets and chairs to sit on and enjoy the concert. All profits from ticket purchases were used to fund the habitat for the tigers.

The two food trucks, Shrimp vs. Chef and Kona Ice, were open to guests to grab a snack or refreshment.

The first three acts included animal showings and performances by students in the music department. Different styles of music were performed by singers/songwriters, bass players, drummers and pianists.

One of the student performers was a second-year student, singer and guitarist Audrey Gomes, who was accompanied by bass player Roy Bletscher and drummer Daniel Bermudez.

“I had a wonderful time,” said Gomes. “It was great working with Daniel and Roy, as their help contributed greatly to the performance. As always, I was a bit nervous before performing, but once I was on stage I felt alive and got reminded why I love being a musician.”

Moorpark Sophomore Jane Doe finishes a performance at the concert for cats benefit on Tuesday, April 4, 2021, in Moorpark, CA.
Moorpark sophomore Audrey Gomes finishes a performance at the Concert for Cats benefit on Tuesday, April 4, 2021, in Moorpark, CA. Photo credit: Ryan Bough

Moorpark College parent Kelly Mako shared her story on why she and her family came to visit and support the zoo.

“My husband has been battling stage 4 Lymphoma since March,” Mako shared. “He loves John Ondrasik, and I’ve always wanted to come see the cats at the zoo; so I wrote to John, and his wife set us up with a wonderful VIP package.”

Mako also explained how it affected her son to see his college campus.

“It was great for my son who’s been online for school since COVID started, and he gets to see his amazing college for the first time in two years,” Mako elaborated.

For information on upcoming events at America’s Teaching Zoo, visit their website.