April 2, 2001
Elephant naming contest winner steals everyone's hearts
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
SEATTLE - It looks like little Madison Gordon will be going to Thailand, after all. Madison, an endearing first grader from Redmond, won the Woodland Park Zoo's name-the-baby-elephant contest last week. Madison had submitted the winning name of "Hansa" (HUN-suh), which means "supreme happiness."
And it was fitting. Madison was the happiest little girl in town after her entry was announced as the winner during a live telecast of Evening Magazine at the zoo.
Jumping up and down with joy, she then stunned everyone by announcing she was giving the prize ‹ a trip for two to Thailand ‹ to her teacher.
Madison explained that her teacher (Susan Hoffman at Norman Rockwell Elementary) had said in class that she had always wanted to go to Thailand. So Madison had already decided that if her name for the baby elephant were chosen, she would give her teacher the tickets.
Which made her a winner in more ways than one. Her generosity won the hearts of the region and the nation. Appearing on NBC's Today Show with Mayor Paul Schell at the zoo two days later, the 6-year-old was told that Thai Airways had given her an extra pair of tickets so that she could still have the prize. But the mayor found it a tough sell. Madison, insisting she didn't really need to go to Thailand, finally agreed to go on the trip with her father. And, she and her family will also be traveling to California to see her grandmother, courtesy of KING TV and Alaska Airlines. The contest drew over 15,000 entries. Rules for the naming contest required that the name be of Thai origin because Thailand is the birthplace of the calf's mother, Chai, who arrived at the zoo at the age of one.
A panel of judges, including zoo keepers, chose the winning name. Madison found the name Hansa on the Internet.
Madison said that for her, the big prize was the honor of naming the 4-month-old elephant calf, the first one born at the zoo.
"I still can't believe I won," she said. "It's so great to know for the rest of my life that I named this elephant."