Co-chairs Meredyth Ralph, Catey Peters, Libby Ray, Cristina Rickard and Laura Dean

What a pleasure it was to scrub off the dreary film of isolation, get dressed – you know – dressed and venture out to an engaging setting reinvented for a lovely summer evening.
The Nature Center at Shaker Lakes was one of the first non-profits to pivot from public to private partying during the pandemic, and was again one of the first to pivot from private to public, as society recovers and slowly comes back to a new normal.
In previous years, the setup for the annual fundraiser had tables bunched under tents in a central courtyard, but necessity dictated a more eclectic mix. Some of the 350 guests at the sold-out event ate in pavilions, some at intimate tables for two set along the pathways between forest and fen, depending on how the reservations rolled in. But each setting was lovely and unique, and all were, as promised, surrounded by nature on a picture-perfect night.

London and Mark Young with Nicholas Rennillo and Amy and Shawn Acton

With hors d’oeuvres by Doug Katz, seated dinner by Spice Catering, desserts by Luna Bakery & Cafe, creative cocktails by Gigi’s on Fairmount and wine service by The Wine Spot, a great time was had by all. The silent auction was conducted online, leaving more room for guests to take in the views and wander by the ongoing upgrades to the property.
The Nature Center’s mission is to connect people with nature and promote environmental stewardship, and the non-profit does that by relying on members and donors, not taxes. Currently the organization is working toward a $6.1 million goal to finish their enhanced outdoor and interactive areas. One of the most exciting things about the event is that The Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation will match all campaign gifts of $100 or more up to $100,000, through August 31. Hurry! The Center is very close to its goal, and a custom-made treehouse and an all-natural play area are waiting to be completed this year. STORY AND PHOTOGRPAHS BY RITA KUEBER