During summer in Northeast Ohio, some things don’t change – things like lovely women dressed in breezy, floral dresses and dapper fellows in neatly pressed shorts or slacks and colorful shirts at… fill in your favorite gathering. And in this case, the gathering was Nature at Night. The annual benefit for the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes was sold out (as usual) with more than 500 attendees. Some things do change – the setup was slightly different from previous years, with tents and tables clustered in a sort of open courtyard and plenty of space for guests to get to the bars and delectable food stations. Tables also lined the boardwalk that overlooks the marshes of the Shaker lakes – one of the most stunning and unique settings for any benefit.
Notably, Nature at Night is one of the few special events that relies on
neighborhood eateries to offer noshes and nibbles, and this year was no exception. Coordinated by Chef Doug Katz, the food stations dazzled with small plates and craft cocktails. Gigi’s on Fairmount offered a signature drink, The Red Cordial (vodka, rose cordial, pineapple, cranberry, and lime wedge – total yum). Nine area restaurants participated, plus a wine spot and a local brewery. The connections this organization has are deeply rooted in the Heights community.
This year marks the last benefit for Kay Carlson as the President and CEO. She is retiring after 15 years. To recognize her contributions, the Nature Center is kicking off a new endowment fund, The Leadership Fund in Honor of Kay Carlson. Held at The Cleveland Foundation, the
endowment will support the position of President/CEO in perpetuity, allowing more fund allocations to educational programs, habitats, and trails.
The benefit also provided an opportunity to introduce the incoming President/CEO, Peter Bode. After a national search, the new leader was found right here in Cleveland. Previously he was the Executive Director of the Community Life Collaborative, an organization that engages communities in social and environmental justice. He is a Cleveland State University graduate with a B.S. in Environmental Science. He is also a Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (CERP) and a Qualified Data Collector for the Ohio EPA. “I grew up with Metroparks in my backyard,” he told Currents. “It’s time to get back to the trees.”
While the Nature Center has trails for people of all abilities, fitness walks, youth camps, workshops, and more, most importantly, it offers critical science programming to 7,500 students, pre-K to first graders. Board member Terry Wade Lyles stressed in her remarks the need for “equity, education, and engagement.” The organization does all of this through private donations and grants. Organizers were happy to report they raised over $110,000 from the event. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY RITA KUEBER