by Katie Ferron, Conservancy Marketing and Outreach Coordinator
In the past few months, the uncertainty dealt by the coronavirus probably had many people feeling helpless waiting to see
what happens next. But through it all, experts advised people can still go outside, and that the healing impact of nature will be
important to our nation’s recovery.
“We need to look after our mental and physical health, and fresh air, nature, and exercise are really important for that,” Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told The Atlantic.
At the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, this is the heart of our mission to protect our land, water, wildlife and future for generations to come. Founded in 1964, the Conservancy has an $8 million annual operating budget, 65 full-time staff members, 600 volunteers and 26 interns, and more than 7,000 members and donor families.
In a year, the Conservancy educates 10,000 children, admits 3,700 wildlife patients to the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, protects 590 sea turtle nests, captures 2,000 pounds of invasive pythons threatening native wildlife and helps to preserve thousands of wetland acres.
The Conservancy’s mission focuses on critical environmental issues impacting Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. Strategies include science and research, policy and advocacy, wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education.
The Conservancy, a nonprofit, is funded by generous individual sponsors, corporate sponsors, grants, private foundations,
membership, and planned gifts. One major source of funds is the annual Magic Under the Mangrove’s gala, which in March this
year, raised $1.6 million with a record 510 attendees. In 16 years, Magic Under the Mangroves has raised more than $13 million to fund scientific research, education programs, policy development, advocacy and wildlife rehabilitation programs.
This year’s event focused on the people who power our mission, allowing the Conservancy to address mounting challenges such as removing pythons from our local ecosystem, providing an annual assessment of our 20,174 mangroves and protecting sea turtle nests, to name a few. In 2005, a group of community leaders created the event, named Magic Under the Mangroves one of the top charitable events in Naples, to celebrate and support Southwest Florida’s unique natural environment.
This year’s theme “It’s on! Time to Make the Magic Happen,” celebrated nature at night including sparkling sunsets, twinkling twilight, sunlight dancing through the mangroves, all under a lavishly decorated tent on the grounds of the Conservancy Nature Center. Conservancy member and longtime supporter Carol Dinardo chaired this year’s event. “What an amazing way to shine a light on the important work of the Conservancy,” she said. “This gala allows the community to support the Conservancy’s teams to continue their incredible work to preserve the environment that brought us here.”
Magic Under the Mangroves, which has grown into one of Naples’ top annual charitable events, featured cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, music and a seated dinner by award-winning, certified green caterer Windows Catering of Washington D.C.
Attendees also participated in a silent auction and spirited live auction that included trips to exotic destinations, elegant dinner
parties, jewelry and artwork. The auction included one-of-a-kind nature experiences with Conservancy staff members, including a screech owl release, sea turtle habitat exploration, python tracking exploration in the Everglades and more.
Before dinner was served, the live fund-a-need cash call ended after raising $995,000. After dinner, attendees were asked if anyone would be willing to get the total to $1 million, and several paddles were raised, bringing the fund-a-need campaign over $1 million.
The Silent Fund-A-Need at the gala highlighted the cost and need for funding ongoing expenses such as weekly animal care at the wildlife hospital at $200 for reptiles, $300 for mammals and $500 for shorebirds; and a sea turtle satellite tracking tag for $4,000.
Funds were also raised for Ambassador Animal “home furnishings” in the Dalton Discovery Center, injured shorebird pool supplies, bird re-nesting supplies, a sea turtle research ATV, invasive cane toad research, computer equipment for interns and
volunteers, a new network server, policy fights against fracking, school field trips and more.
As our community continues to heal and grow from the impact of recent trying times, we are keenly aware that our Southwest
Florida environment continues to be an economic driver as well as a place for healing and well-being. Now more than ever, we
cannot afford to take our natural environment for granted and we challenge you to become engaged as part of the solution.
Visits to the Conservancy’s Nature Center support the Conservancy’s mission work including wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release, sea turtle monitoring and research, clean water advocacy and environmental education and outreach. For more information, visit conservancy.org.