It started when they were very young. One brother who was crazy
about wildlife, one who was wild about technical things, and one very unusual
I’m a wildlife ambassador.
My mission is to teach people about wildlife,
and help them see the connection between animals and people and how
profoundly the way we treat nature affects our daily lives.
I do this mostly for kids.
have a brother – Josh. You’d
like him. He’s a year older than me.
He and I travel around and video tape animals so that we can give
the tapes out. I speak at
camps and schools, and Josh is usually there wrangling animals for me.
Besides that stuff, we rescue a lot of animals which sometimes
end up coming with me to all those schools.
One of the defining moments
in my life happened when I was about five… after something died.
Imagine a boy in the world of adults who one day found himself standing
in a room, gazing into the spiritless eyes of a giant, dead owl.
... a boy everyone would soon call “Chance.”
I am that boy and that moment is when I
began to live with purpose...
In the Beginning…
the unusual opportunity of being able to study and work as a volunteer
in a raptor rescue center. Because of his avid interest in
wildlife, they allowed him -- at that
very young age-- to help with the
feeding and care of the birds, and even to participate in the
of the wild birds brought in that were already dead. They had to
do three of these that particular day, but the third one struck
him differently than the others.
It was a
beautiful, barred owl without a mark of injury upon it. It had
died from a broken neck after having flown into the window of a new
house being built on his block in the middle of his forest.
Staring into those large eyes he saw his own reflection...
small person with exam lights burning in the background. Something
in there was beginning to stir me deep inside. I saw that I was alive
in that bird’s eyes and the life was giving me… a purpose.
I could no longer care just about all things feathered or furry.
Suddenly I realized that I must care about their habitats – where they
live. Where they fly.
Where they raise their young.
It was at this moment that I felt like a torch had been passed to
me. A torch that
illuminated a path that, I think destiny had set aside for me, long ago.
A path that would take me into classrooms.
A path that would lead me to seek fresh knowledge and its meaning
for human beings, too. A
path teeming with urgency and passion.
name is Brooks, but because of this defining moment in time, I became
known as “Chance.” I
became conscious on this day that I, Brooks Daniel Ruder, AM a Chance
But just how
much can a child do? As it turns out, quite a lot.
By the time
he was six, he had started a "penny
campaign” at his school to save Hawk #693 who had a broken wing and
needed to be rehabilitated. A
teacher suggested he make a video to explain why the hawk should be
saved. For this he would need help.
So, his brother, Josh (7),
agreed to dress up in a mascot costume.
They put a camera on a tripod, and
Chance: … did
this (really hilariously embarrassing) video out
in the woods behind our house. I
stood next to him and explained all the adaptations of a redtail hawk,
and told kids why hawks are so cool and why we should try to save Hawk
#693. After that, the money
for the hawk poured in and we turned in about $700 in six weeks.
experience led the brothers to borrow the family camera and
interesting wildlife. At
first, they started out with a non-digital camera and two VCRs.
But it was a slow process, and as the hours piled up and their
videos became more elaborate, their parents finally agreed to some new
Just a regular digital video camera like most families have. We
have a pretty good one and then a really inexpensive one for a second
angle. And I use an Apple laptop for editing. We can take our stuff
anywhere. This year we got a metal case for one camera and we also have
a couple of tripods. It’s all regular equipment you can get at any
retail electronics store.
made it up when we were in 1st and 2nd grade.
He’s like Mr. Gadget right?
And I’m all about wildlife.
Well the scientific name for the American Kestrel is Falco
Sparverius. Josh just
switched that species name from SPARverius to SPYverius. Ha ha.
We’re weird like that.
Spyverius is our kid-run wildlife video production company.
Basically, we choose an animal or an environmental topic and we
start planning things out. I
do the research and write the script.
Josh runs the camera and does most of the post production work.
In the middle of all that, we work small jobs to earn the money
for travel, video tape, postage or whatever.
Once we are done filming and editing, we make copies and start
sending them out. It’s
pretty simple and very cool to be the boss.
We see a lot of things other kids never see and we make our own
decisions. We have covered eagle surgeries, hawk rescues, ecological
mysteries, press conferences, movie premiers, wild animals in the sky,
in the water and of course, on the land.
we have been chased by animals and I don’t recommend it (but you’re
OK if you can run faster than the slowest person in the group.
Usually your Mom. Ha).
Josh: Chance has to be rescued a LOT.
Chance: Not that often.
Josh: Ask Mom.
Mom: Chance gets rescued a LOT.
Chance: I don’t get rescued that much.
never intended to sell the videos. We just wanted to tape things we saw
and show it to our friends. It’s not like we are professionals so
we are usually just glad someone will listen when we make one. Also,
little kids don’t usually have a lot of money. We would rather
work to pay all the costs, and give it to our friends for free.
that, one thing just led to another.
Chance began mentoring at SeaWorld, where he had
the opportunity to talk with animal care specialists. He was also
invited to join their summer camp program, where he would share his philosophies about...
and how one thing is connected to another thing in nature, and why I think
kids should care about these things. SeaWorld actually has
camps for kids who think they want to go into some sort of animal work, so
they can see what it’s really like.
I never mentored at SeaWorld. But
at the beginning when Chance was really young, I helped him on stage
there. But just the first summer.
there was a good experience for me. Speaking, observing different methods
of research… they
are things you kind of have to learn to do and the people at the park
really helped out just by exposing me to all of that.
Now, I’ve done shows a
bazillion times. I know what works. Sometimes,
I take little kids with me to my programs (which are FOR little
give them one of my old Spyverius Productions shirts to wear, and I put
this official looking “volunteer” pin on it. Or I pick kids to
help and they wear a "rat wrangler" or "reptile
wrangler" shirt. It's fun. I give them jobs to do,
like “Carry this, Hold this animal for me, Listen to Josh and he’ll
tell you when to come out and take this from my hand, etc. I might
even dress them up like a bat so I can teach the adaptations of animals.
Every time I teach and I explain
to everyone why nature is so awesome- I prove my point by bringing animals
out that most of them have never even seen close-up before.
I point out the problems these animals have faced and I say “When
we grow up, let’s think differently!
You wanna?” And they
always say, “Yes, we do!”
it’s the adventure…
To try and pick one thing we like best about filming would almost
be impossible. Sometimes it’s the location like when we return to the
same set of rocks about 20 miles off the coast of California to tape sea
lions over and over. That feeling of actually arriving back and
seeing the rookery together is like coming home again.
it’s the adventure. Josh has saved my life more than once. But one
time in particular, I slipped off of a cliff and was hanging about 60
feet over tidepools when Josh grabbed me by the arms and pulled me back
up. I don’t recommend being in this kind of danger, but talk about
making you grateful for your brother! A life and death situation will do
can get pretty wild at times.
Waves have nearly smashed our boat into rocks while we were
filming. We have fallen in,
slipped down, tripped over, and mucked through just about anything you
can think of. Once Mom
almost had a heart attack when we had to jump from one cliff to another
over a frozen section of the Rio Grande, in the New Mexico mountains.
I have never seen my mom pray so much!
But I’ve only had to be rescued twice, and Josh has never had
to be rescued. I’ve lost
count on Mom, though
also meet a lot of really nice people along the way. Some of them are
people who do what we do, and sometimes they are just people who are
really supportive of us. It’s been a good way to grow up, you know?
With nice people who try to help out.
Taping manatees on the Crystal River in Florida was the best filming
experience to me. I couldn’t believe how awesome they were.
I think we’d both agree on that one. We had no idea how amazing and
gentle and beautiful those animals would be face to whiskers. I’d do
that again any day.
are protected though, so
when we went to the Crystal River,
we had to know what the laws were before we got in the water with them.
instance, they have
refuges in the river. They are like floating roped off sections by
some of the riverbanks where if the manatee swims into one, it’s like
a people-free rest station. Which is pretty funny because I never saw
one try to get away from us.
They pretty much follow you around to get you to scratch them because
they are itchy from always molting their skin. They actually move your
hand with their flippers to where they want you to scratch them.
Its funny. I was like “dude, where's the human refuge?”
what we do might not be for everyone.
But there’s a lot to be said for getting out in nature and
trying to understand what surrounds you.
The best way to do that is to get help from a good adult… who
runs slower than you!"
and Chance will tell about some of the adventures they’ve had rescuing
animals, and also share some of their secrets about making videos.
the link to go to
Part Two of
With a Mission