Sammy leaves legacy on Wide Horizons

Kris Long, Sports Editor

E-Hall will be a little quieter now that the squawks of Sammy the Umbrella Cockatoo will no longer reverberate through the halls after his untimely passing in the early hours of Saturday morning. He was 28, living only half of the expected lifetime for his species.

Sammy started at Wide Horizons as a rescue in 2014, shortly after sponsor Leslie Campbell took over the program. He was the second Cockatoo at MHS, after Dude, who the previous Wide Horizons sponsor Tish Simpson rehomed in her retirement. 

“He had been with a couple foster families where it didn’t work right when someone reached out to me and said ‘would you give Sammy a home at Wide Horizons,’” Campbell said. “I had a couple students who were willing to take them on and work with him… we really didn’t know what we were getting into with him being a rescue. And it took him a while to warm up to people, but then once he did, he just loved attention.”

He quickly became known for his signature personality and tantrums. Sammy had a tendency to attach himself to people, like late security officer Randy Nivert and various Wide Horizons students. 

“There were students who didn’t care much for Sammy in my regular classes, because of the noise, because he would be a screamer if things weren’t going his way,” Campbell said. “But then other people who when they had the chance would love to just go up and talk to him or pet him. He would come over to the side of the cage to let them pet his cheek.”

Sammy traveled to schools along with the other Wide Horizons animals for the past seven years, including as an exhibit for a dinosaur presentation. 

“They would come in with him and his carrier and it would be covered and as they were talking about dinosaurs, and he would get to a point that he’d be frustrated in the dark and he would start making noises,” Campbell said. “And they’d go ‘yeah there’s our dinosaur’ and the kids were like, ‘Ahh! they got a real dinosaur!,’ because of the noises.”

“One of my favorite memories was that my car was really small when I had him,” said 2016 Manhattan High graduate and Sammy’s first handler Lexi Bieker. “And I had to shove his cage in there with me every time we went somewhere, but all the little kids were so pumped to see him that it was worth it.”

Being a Cockatoo, Sammy was an unconventional addition to Wide Horizons’ array of usual animals. 

“He’s such a unique animal for that program,” Bieker said. “I grew up in the Manhattan school district, and I remember Wide Horizons with the turtles and the hedgehogs and the snakes and all those cool animals. But I think for a whole bunch of kids and even high schoolers to get to be around a bird that unique and big and interesting and smart was a really great experience that we all got.”

Sammy will be sorely missed among Wide Horizons students and leave his mark in the memories of Manhattan High E-Hall students. 

“I never thought that I would care for a bird,” Campbell said. “I never knew a bird could be as affectionate as he was, he just wanted to come next to you, or be pet. So I hope that other people…  remember him that way as well, and not from when he screamed.”