Wandering wallaby welcomes new friends for a visit


Jeff the wallaby, who made local and national headlines after escaping from his Lake Serene home in early March, will be the guest of honor at a Meet and Greet to celebrate his safe return to his owners.

The Meet and Greet, which was organized by Magnolia Graphics owner Lance Sanderford, will be held from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. April 14 at Extreme Skate Zone, 5272 Old Highway 11 in Hattiesburg. Each attendee will be granted two minutes to visit and take pictures with Jeff. Photographers will be on hand, but participants are welcome to bring their own cameras for selfies with the Australian macropod.

“So many people were involved (in looking for Jeff), and we feel bad that not everyone can get a reward, because there were so many people that helped us,” said Kayla Graham, Jeff’s owner. “So this is just so that everyone who helped us out, and everyone in general who was emotionally attached can come and meet him, so they can get a little bit of something, and (for us) to say thank you.”

Every participant at the Meet and Greet will receive two free Jeff decals, and those who donate $10 or more will get a Jeff T-shirt and a free skate pass to Extreme Skate Zone. Graham and other event organizers also welcome donations of baby blankets, dog or baby toys, large female dog diapers, and small or extra-small dog T-shirts and sweaters.

Food and drinks will be available for sale, and all proceeds from the event will be used for food and necessities for Jeff.

Katherine Smith, the Hattiesburg resident who managed to corral Jeff, also will be on hand to tell her story about using bananas to lure the wallaby into a fenced-in area where he was captured.

“Right now, we have about 850 confirmed (to attend the Meet and Greet), and that’s just off of Facebook,” Graham said. “But it’s also been in the news … so there’s probably going to be a lot more than that coming.

“The owner of the skating rink is actually flying in from Tampa (with his family) … and we’ve got a lot of people who are coming from out of town. I know people who are coming from Texas to meet Jeff. So it’s kind of insane.”

Jeff went missing March 13 after pushing his way out of his owners’ fenced-in yard in the Acadia Oaks subdivision. During the two weeks he was missing, residents reported seeing the 2-year-old wallaby in various locations, from the Lake Serene area to Rawls Springs.

He made quite the stir on social media, where the hashtag #wheresjeff trended around the country. Several businesses, including Magnolia Graphics and Parris Jewelers, offered rewards for Jeff’s safe return.

Jeff eluded capture until being wrangled by Smith on March 28.