A $5,000 donation from the Friends of the Forest Preserve foundation
will keep the Forest Preserve District of Will County's nature education programs free for students this school year.
The donation check was presented on September 8 to the District's Board of Commissioners by foundation Vice Chairwoman Laurie McPhillips.
Funds were collected from individual donors and from the foundation's "Bringing Nature Home Plant Sale" in May during the group's first-ever fundraising campaign, "Help Keep Nature Education Programs Free!"
The money will be used to assist the District in purchasing equipment and materials for its nature education programs, which are designed to give students direct experiences with nature.
"It is so important in today's high-tech world to bring children back to their roots," McPhillips noted during the check presentation.
Each year, the District provides nature education programs to more than 15,000 students. In 2016, the District's Board eliminated field trip fees. Foundation funding will now help cover the cost of the programs.
"The Friends did not want budget cuts to be the reason students had fewer chances to learn about nature," said foundation Chairman Tim Brennan.
Ralph Schultz, chief operating officer for the District, stated that the timing of the contribution was perfect.
"With the upcoming school field trip season and planning for the fiscal year 2017 Forest Preserve budget, knowing that the Friends was successful in meeting its fundraising goal is great news," he said.
Board President Suzanne Hart accepted the check on behalf of the District.
Foundation Executive Director Cindy Harn said the group is working with the District to identify new projects and funding needs.
"But our commitment to raising funds in support of nature education for our youth is at the core of what the foundation stands for," she said. "We are excited to share the ongoing nature education success story with our donors, for without these generous individuals, this would not be possible."Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock