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Cheetahs have a friend in Janet Waggoner

by:  Janet Waggoner

Janet Waggoner of Lake Oswego has been a big fan of cheetahs for a long time.

This year she will be doing more than ever for the speedy, spotty jungle cats as a volunteer for the seventh annual Run for the Cheetah on May 1 in Portland. Waggoner is really making a difference.

Just ask Teresa Delaney, another cheetah-loving Lake Oswegan and trustee for the Cheetah Conservation Fund, who calls Wag-goner 'a wonderful volunteer.'

Actually Waggoner is a wonderful volunteer in more ways than one. Her love of conservation and work with wildlife give her a most unique background.

But the big pile of photos she keeps explains Waggoner's history better than anything else:

n Johnny Carson looking warily upward at the cheetah sitting on his desk on The Tonight Show.

n Olivia Newton-John singing in the snow with cheetahs as an audience.

n Her late father Jay Golden, an outstanding wildlife photographer, stroking a big cat.

n Dr. Laurie Marker, founder and executive director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, taking a bubble bath while petting a cheetah.

'I didn't grow up with cheetahs,' Waggoner said, but she is doing a lot for them.

'I am passionate about conservation, period,' Waggoner said. 'That is why I'm working with cheetahs. When I heard about Run for the Cheetah I took a leap of faith and tracked down Teresa Delaney in 2007.

'By working for the cheetah run I not only pursue my passion for conservation, I honor my father, too.'

'I am enjoying working with her so much, and she is really helping our organization grow,' Delaney said.

For Waggoner her conservation journey started with Wildlife Safari. Her father was the photographer for the organization, and this opened up many experiences for his daughter.

One of them was meeting the remarkable Marker, who has gained world fame for her work with cheetahs. They will renew their friendship on May 1. Waggoner has high praise for Marker's innovation of combining cheetah conservation with social entrepreneurship.

While Waggoner is revving up interest in the Run for the Cheetahs, she is also helping to raise the next generation of conservationists with her 20-year-old twin daughters Casey and McKenzie, both Lakeridge High School graduates.

Casey, who has 'always wanted to work with cheetahs,' has traveled to Laurie Marker's center in Namibia. McKenzie has started a nonprofit called Safari at Sea, which helps children in slavery.

'I'm pretty proud of them,' Waggoner said.

The daughters can be proud of their mom, too.

'Someone has to plant the flag,' Waggoner said. 'Whatever helps to spread the message about saving cheetahs, that's what I need to do.'

To sign up or to make donations to the seventh annual Run for the Cheetah visit www.runforthecheetah.org or call 503-644-6822.