In the midst of holiday celebrations and time with family, Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to support the causes closest to our hearts. With the Foundation, you can show some love to what you love most about Florida’s wildlife. From conserving habitat for endangered species like the Florida grasshopper sparrow to funding youth hunting programs, there is a fund for every outdoor enthusiast and wildlife lover. So join our donors below and pick a cause, any cause!
Jeff Ardelean spent 40 years between the Fish & Game Commission and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) as an investigative captain. Most of his work involved protecting sea turtle eggs from illegal harvest in the West Palm Beach area.
In 2001, Jeff’s friend and fellow officer Roy Burnsed was killed in an accident with Officer Charles Randall in a head-on collision while patrolling the Holey Land Wildlife Management Area in Palm Beach County for illegal activity. Jeff had worked with Officer Burnsed’s father at the FWC and had known Roy as a young boy.
“We were a very close-knit community,” said Jeff. “But we had no way to help the families with memorial funding. We had no Foundation.”
Jeff and other FWC officers took turns organizing golf tournaments to raise money for the families to help pay for funeral costs. He says they return annually to the site of the accident to lay wreaths made by Officer Burnsed’s mother and honor both officers lost to the accident.
When it came time to retire, Jeff asked his friends and family to donate money to the FWC Law Enforcement Memorial in lieu of gifts. His retirement party doubled as a fundraiser, with a tip jar for donations. Today, Jeff is enjoying retirement with his wife and three grandchildren, while occasionally visiting the Keys for a fishing trip. But he still makes it to the bowling alley weekly to bowl with his FWC team.
Caroline Makepeace, originally from Australia launched the “Y Travel” blog with husband Craig to capture their shared love of travel. The blog has featured trips and travels to over 50 countries with their children. They were tipped off to the natural, and often overlooked, wonders in north Florida through conversations with Visit Florida. Caroline, Craig, and their two kids explored the area for eight days, swimming in Madison Blue Spring State Park, scalloping in Steinhatchee, strolling through Live Oak and Monticello, and relaxing on Cedar Key. They returned to Florida this spring, spending time in Highlands Hammock State Park and Manasota Key.
“It was the perfect getaway,” said Caroline. “We were able to be remote while adventuring in nature. We socially distanced while having brand new experiences.” Caroline and Craig donate to the Foundation after every trip as part of their belief that their travels should also benefit the environment they enjoyed.
Bill Cita has been a conservationist for decades, caring deeply about the plight of vulnerable and endangered species like the thousands of migrating sandhill cranes that rest along the Platte River near his home in eastern Nebraska. When Bill heard the Florida grasshopper sparrow faced extinction, he was quick to support efforts to boost the last wild populations through captive breeding. “I couldn’t live with myself if I did nothing, even though their situation seemed hopeless,” Bill said. “I’m in it for the long haul.”
Our work, with Bill’s help, is reversing the tide. The first of the captive-reared sparrows began being released back into the wild in May 2019, in hope of stabilizing and growing the largest-remaining wild population of the birds. As of 2021 biologists have released almost 500 birds. In answering the call for help for five straight years, Bill has provided consistent support for this work, helping to ensure the sustainability of the program and an optimistic future for a bird once on the brink of extinction. Join Bill in saving North America’s most endangered bird.
Kevin Smith is the guy who roots for the home team. After moving from Massachusetts five years ago, Florida became his new home team, and he committed to its success.
With roots in the Sunshine State, he experienced Florida’s iconic manatees, birds, and other wildlife at a young age. And while he was always supportive of wildlife organizations in Massachusetts, his focus was work. “I was a workaholic,” said Kevin. “I didn’t pay much attention to life beyond my work.”
But with his new zip code, he’s found the time and space to re-evaluate his priorities and interests. While exploring environmental organizations on social media, he came across the Foundation. “I wanted to support an organization working on the front lines,” Kevin shared. “The Foundation has a fund for every interest!” After retirement, Kevin would like to volunteer, but now he knows he can contribute something every organization needs: funding. Kevin is a monthly donor, joining the ranks of our Conservation Champions!
So pick a project this Giving Tuesday. Choose a charity. Find a fund. And show some love to what you love most about Florida’s wildlife.