BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Staff at the Maryland Zoo have been making some Zoom calls recently to brighten up children’s hospital patients’ days.

When 17-year-old Che Penn answered one of the calls Tuesday afternoon, noisy flapping African penguins appeared.

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“They’re so cute,” Penn exclaimed.

The teen is a cancer patient at the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai and has had the chance to do many different virtual meet-ups with animals from the zoo.

“I’ve had tortoises, I’ve had birds, I just had penguins. I’ve seen a lot of the zoo,” she said.

The hospital has long been welcoming animals into the hospital but when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the virtual meet-ups were the only way for the patients to see the animals.

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“Any time you’re in a hospital, it’s kind of probably not the best day,” said Kristin VanBuskirk, the Maryland Zoo Education Manager. “So we’re hoping to be able to spark a little bit of joy and kind of bring a smile to a kid’s face.”

VanBuskirk said that the virtual visits were already part of the zoo’s programming before the pandemic began.

“It really makes my day,” said Penn. “Especially on days when I don’t feel like doing anything then I get a little visit and it’s like aw okay.”

For more info, visit: and click on the learn tab to learn more about all of the zoo’s virtual programming.

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CBS Baltimore Staff