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Gala Recap: Celebrating 20 Years of Wild Earth

Published May 15th, 2023

On April 29th, 2023, around 300 members of our Wild Earth community: current and past participants, parents, partners, donors, staff, and board members gathered at the Andy Murphy Neighborhood Center in Kingston to celebrate Wild Earth’s 20th anniversary, to honor the transition of leadership between David Brownstein and Omari Washington as executive director, and to close out our 5-year capital campaign by raising the remaining $200,000 left of our fundraising goal.


The event opened with time to reconnect that was accompanied by memorable music from the Bernstein Bard Trio and delicious food and drink that lasted all night long from Lekker, Arrowood, and Kingston Wine Co. With Esperanza Gonzalez MC-ing, Omari gave us a warm welcome to the space, giving thanks to all the people and partners who have worked so hard over the last 20 years to make Wild Earth what it is today.



After dinner we heard from many other voices about what Wild Earth means to them: like program participant, parent, and past board member of 6 years Yolanda Wu, Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education and champion of Wild Earth for 10 years Mary Beth Bonville, and from three, long-time program participants, who are now transitioning into instructor positions at Wild Earth (introduction), Arlo, Violet, and Yadna. They each spoke about the impact Wild Earth has had on their lives, from their families becoming more in touch with nature and their community, to the groundedness they see in the children they work with, to their own personal pursuits and leadership goals.


The board of directors gave thanks to all in attendance, sweet gifts to Omari and David, and ended with a special surprise in the form of a song. We then heard from David, who showed us that no matter how big or how small our connection to Wild Earth is, that we all make up Wild Earth’s community. Rovika Rajkishun, our gala committee chair, closed out our speeches by sharing gratitude and our call to action to give. Finally, Underground System, a Brooklyn based afro-beat band, brought the house down with their incredible music.



At the end of the night with silent auction and gala ticket purchases, grants, donations, and other gifts given during and leading up to the event, we were able to surpass our goal and close the capital campaign with nearly $212,000!


Thank you all for believing in Wild Earth.


We also wanted to say thank you to our event coordinator Bethany Pickard and her team at Modern Kicks, our event vendors and business sponsors who donated their services, goods, time, and skills, the Gala Committee, and the many Wild Earth staff members who made this whole evening possible.

Abby SchmeichelAbby SchmeichelAbby Schmeichel, Communications Coordinator

Abby grew up in NY, VA, IL, and PA moving frequently and living in a mix of urban, suburban, and rural environments. She discovered a passion for the outdoors in the backyard spaces of her many childhood homes: collecting acorns under oak trees in VA, hunting for snails in a small garden in the Bronx, exploring a thin strip of forest separated by farms in northern Illinois, and many more. Abby enjoys working outdoors with youth and communicating the wonders of the natural world, skills which she developed over the last 5 years as an educator at several outdoor schools in WY, WA, and MT and as a researcher, outreach coordinator and administrator in MT. She recently moved back to NY to be near family and was excited to join the Wild Earth team in 2022. More about Abby's work.

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