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October 19, 2021

Cincinnati Zoo Pays Powerful Tribute to Little Boy Who Died Unexpectedly at 1 Year Old

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The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden took to Facebook to commemorate a toddler who passed after a lifelong battle with a rare illness in a touching tribute.

Eight months after little Oliver Nicholson died of a rare condition, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden honored his memory with a heartfelt gesture. 

Taking to Facebook, the zoo facility announced their decision to rename their sloth habitat after the deceased lad on what would have been his second birthday.

A picture of little Oliver Nicholson and his teddy bear | Photo: facebook.com/cincinnatizoo

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Their heartwarming move came a day after the boy’s parents posted a touching note to the facility after learning their sloth, Lighting, delivered a stillborn.

The zoo hopes the grand tribute to Oliver would serve to help his parents, Alex and Alyssa Nicholson, live through their most difficult day of the year by having something positive to think about.

Oliver first made the news in February, after his parents shared the touching story of his short life to create awareness about his rare condition called VACTERL.

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The term describes an ailment marked by vertebral defects, anal atresia, cardiac defects, tracheoesophageal fistula, renal anomalies, and limb anomalies. Oliver lived with the defect for the sixteen months of his life, all the while remaining a joyful baby that brought light to his family.

He and his twin brother were born prematurely in October 2019. While his twin was born healthy, Oliver had to live with his condition, enduring several rounds of surgery throughout his life to restore him to perfect health.

Following one of those surgeries, his parents gifted the amiable youngster a two-toed sloth, which was a symbolic present since Oliver had just two fingers.

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A netizen's comment on the viral Facebook post | Photo: facebook.com/cincinnatizoo

The two-toed sloth quickly became a symbol for the family as the boy grew attached to it until his unexpected demise on February 17.

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Shortly after his death, Alex and Alyssa learned that a two-toed sloth at the Cincinnati Zoo, Lightning, was expecting a baby. Friends, relatives, and well-wishers soon geared off a petition to have the zoo name the newborn after Oliver.

Over 81,000 people signed the petition, quickly garnering global interest. After months of anticipation, Lightning’s delivery date finally came around, with growing excitement over the arrival of the facility’s first sloth baby.

A netizen's comment on the viral Facebook post | Photo: facebook.com/cincinnatizoo

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But another tragedy struck. Lightning delivered a stillborn pup, crushing months of anticipation. Luckily, the sloth mom survived the daunting experience and remains healthy.

Several people who had patiently awaited the birth extended their consolations to the animal facility, including the Nicholsons. A day later, the zoo workers, who were ever-committed to staying true to their promise, gave the Nicholsons a bigger honor by naming the sloth facility after Oliver.

Coincidentally, the historic day fell on the would-have-been birthday of the deceased child. The zoo admitted they already decided to pay tribute to Oliver with the name change even before the sloth’s stillbirth.

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A netizen's comment on the viral Facebook post | Photo: facebook.com/cincinnatizoo

The Oliver Nicholson Memorial Sloth Habitat was admittedly the greatest gift the Nicholsons could have given their son on his big day.

The grateful parents, who acknowledged the contribution of everyone who signed the petition, could only hope they made their baby boy proud.

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