Jayde Reioux introduces a snake to her friends at Post 658. Photo by John Raughter

Wild creatures entertain Harvey evacuees at Legion post

The sight of a crocodile or python could certainly make one forget about life’s other problems, which was kind of the point of a recent display at American Legion Post 658 in Crosby, Texas.

Jayde Reioux, a zookeeper with Crocodile Encounters, a wildlife park in Angleton, Texas, donated her time to present a reptile show in front of the Legion post. The show was just the latest entertainment booked by local promoter Ray Jenkins in an effort to divert evacuees, relief workers and Legion Family members from the stress incurred as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

Jenkins, who previously arranged performances by a juggler and comedian, believes that these shows are particularly helpful for families and children who may have lost everything as a result of the storm.

“There are basic survival items that people need first … food and shelter,” Jenkins said. “They need to know someone cares. And entertainment is a good diversion from everything that is going on with their lives, and this is just another way to show that we care.”

Reioux came fully prepared with the diversion. For some, the shock and awe of seeing her handle a Nile crocodile, an American alligator, a ball python, a couple of lizards, a snapping turtle and a tortoise in the post parking lot didn’t compare to some of the dangers that they saw in the military.

“If I can face the Taliban, I can face this!” Post 658 Sergeant-at-Arms Mark Valyan said while holding some of reptiles during the show. “Man, I hate snakes. They were on top of my phobia list. But she got me to face my phobia and hold them. I even got peed on by a tortoise!”

“Everybody should be able to take their minds off what happened,” Reioux said. “I think seeing some of these reptiles makes people’s day. Plus, I try to educate them. Reptiles can be dangerous, but they do serve an important purpose and some of them shouldn’t be feared.”