October 2017 Field Notes E-News

“Were ya born in a barn?....um yes we were!”

On September 20th 2017 150 WRI supporters came together at the Riverside Center in Cashmere to celebrate and support the Wenatchee River Institute, which began its work here 10 years ago this week. 

Our Born in Barn banquet and fundraiser was a huge success and we want to celebrate all of you who helped to make it happen. This year’s event was sold out! For those of you who made it, we are so glad you were there. For those who could not, you were missed!
Every year the event brings together such a wonderful group of people it is often hard to get them to sit down and eat! But with the amazing food provided by Ravenous Catering who provided a spectacular spread. All of the dishes were prepared with locally grown and sourced ingredients and by far the most common comment about the evening was how good the meal was. Thank you Ravenous!
Thanks to our supporters who provided the beer and wine, Icicle Brewing Company, 37 Cellars, Stemilt Creek, Eagle Creek and Icicle Ridge wineries. Your generosity added tremendously to our bottom line fundraising. Thank You!
We had a wonderful presentation by Derek Sheffield (author/poet/educator) who shared his work and his passion for the natural world. WRI Board member and Osborn Elementary Principal, Kenny Renner-Singer, spoke to the direct impact the programs at WRI have had over the last ten years. He highlighted WRI’s role in helping Osborn Elementary students to consistently excel in science testing over the period of time we have worked together. Thank you Derek and Kenny!
This event is very important to us here at WRI. None of our programs could be possible without additional support from our donors. Without this annual event, and the support we receive from our donors, we would not be able to provide our unique, hands-on natural science curriculum to our community. 

We had an ambitious goal for our supporters this year to help us raise $40,000 in one evening. And they responded by easily surpassing that goal!

Our donors raised nearly $42,000, and we couldn’t be more thankful! Congratulations should be shared by all who attended, contributed, and donated such amazing gifts to our auction. Thank you all for helping!
Our donors, through this one event, provided us nearly two months of operating capital needed to continue the great work of Connecting People, Communities, and the Natural World. All donations to WRI provide ongoing operational support to maintain a top notch education program, unique in our region. 
All this week our staff, volunteers and elementary school teachers have been taking kids down to wade in the Wenatchee River, where they observe spawning salmon, and hunt for macroinvertebrates. Each one (kids and adults) becoming more in-tune, aware, inspired, educated and connected to the natural world. Our donors get all the credit for this by providing us with the tools and resources we need to continue this work. Thank you Donors!  We are already looking forward to gathering again next year. We hope you are too!
And a big thank you to Heidi Swoboda for taking these amazing photos of our night!

Be Aware By: Will Crowley, Youth Programs Manager

In early September my partner, Beth, and I embarked on a 3-day backpacking trip. Our entry point, Chiwaukum Creek. Our exit, White Pine. Despite smoky skies from the Jack Creek fire we deemed our 27 mile trek a safe one after daily check-ins with local fire reports. While it can be easy to find oneself in a fire haze funk after weeks of brown skies, we kept reminding ourselves that these forests have been unnaturally fire-suppressed for generations and they require fires to keep them healthy. 
Because conditions obscured the expansive views typical of this hike, we were given the opportunity to focus our attention on our more immediate surroundings. The ever-changing forest made us smile at every bend in the trail. Each tree told us a story. To begin with, the thriving ponderosa pines showed their blackened trunks proudly as a reminder of the Chiwaukum Creek fire three years previous and testament to this species’ fire adaptability. Then, after a few hours the valley opened up to present us many magnificent stands of quaking aspen - each stand consisting of but one genetic individual that had sent out its roots to grow a new “individual”. While a gentle breeze got the leaves to dancing we played detective, trying to pick out subtle differences between each stand.
After a restful night at Lake Flore we were soon welcomed by sparse stands of western larch. Their soft bunches of needles, now a light green, were just weeks away of expressing their magic – the anomaly of bursting into a golden hue like no other conifer in the area. Up and over Ladies Pass presented us the occasional white pine, a hearty species better adapted than its cousin, the ponderosa, to the challenges of life at high elevation. The following day continued to surprise us with the more wet-loving species including the magnificent western red cedar, vine maple and red alder. While the summer had been an exceptionally dry one we could only surmise that this valley typically sees more rainfall. Upon reaching our car we were content and cheerful despite the brown haze still lingering in the air.
The following Monday I was back at work as the Youth Programs Manager at Wenatchee River Institute. My goal: connecting kids to the natural world by providing them with personally meaningful experiences outdoors. I not only felt refreshed from my recent trip but also ready to share my reinvigorated enthusiasm for the natural world with our local elementary students. You see, my vacation in the woods heightened my awareness of my surroundings both on the trail and off. I was starting to notice small natural wonders in my own backyard I had previously overlooked. My senses had been reset. My hope is that my generation and the ones to follow are also able to reset theirs. Please, take note of the wonders surrounding you each day.
Please, be aware.

Retirement is a full-time job!

Every few months I will be taking some time to chat with one of our Donors. For my first visit I wanted to speak with Gro Buer.

Gro (pronounced Groo, with a Norwegian roll of the tongue on the R) has been a supporter of WRI for a very long time, and is a current board member. Her involvement started as a teacher and has continued into her retirement.

For those who know Gro, retirement is a full time job!

Gro splits her time between volunteer work with the community (MEND, Humane Society, Master Gardener) her weekly hiking group, following her daughter’s soccer coaching and teaching career, and exploring mountains and trails with her husband Bruce and four legged family member Piper. We are fortunate that Gro still finds time to devote to WRI.  

On top of her personal time here with us, volunteering with field days, and serving on at least two committees (in addition to her board duties) she and her husband Bruce, choose to make a personally significant financial gift to WRI every year.

I wanted to know why, so I asked her a few questions.

PW: Why does our work matter to you?

Gro:“I believe that our earth is being negatively impacted by humans.  Thus, education is the most important activity we can do for protecting/sustaining the natural environment for current and future generations.  WRI is an organization that I support whole heartedly because of its mission of educating youth about the natural world and the importance of that endeavor”

PW: What inspired your first gift to WRI?

Gro:In 2006 when my daughter was a student at Icicle River Middle School, I started volunteering at WRI in the field day programs.  Having been a science educator for the public schools, and teacher trainer for the Peace Corps and the University of WA, I have a good idea of what constitutes best practices.  I was very impressed with the level of instruction and the emphasis with hands-on and experiential activities at WRI.”

PW: Why do you give to WRI?

Gro:I support many environmental and science organizations that help protect and sustain the natural environment as well as educate to protect and rehabilitate compromised lands.  WRI educates about and promotes sustainability with an understanding of the natural world.

I firmly believe it is imperative that the students in our area continue to have these connections to the natural world and I know my gift will help bring kids to WRI. Because the districts can’t cover the full costs of each student attending WRI’s programs.”

I want to thank Gro and all of our donors for their commitment to the environment, education, youth, our community and WRI. It’s donors like Gro that inspire us to keep working as hard as we do to Connect People, Communities, and the Natural World every day.

Thank You Gro!