Creating the Parks We Love Through Philanthropy

By: Karl Huemiller

November 12, 2018

Category: Philanthropy

After a long day at work last week, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some vegetables for dinner. I grabbed a basket at the door and picked out a squash, some broccoli and a few ears of corn. Proceeding to the register, I began emptying my basket onto the conveyer belt when the cashier, noticing my Three Rivers shirt, surprised me by saying, “I love Three Rivers Parks!” 

The funny thing is that I shouldn’t have been surprised by the statement. I hear this all the time, and I can relate. I and many other staff started working for Three Rivers because we love Three Rivers Park District. 

a woman and a man in three rivers park district apparel talking to a member of the public.

Asking around, many staff find that if they wear their Park District apparel in public, park lovers will come up to them and say, “I love Three Rivers Parks!” This is almost always followed up with a conversation about their favorite part of the Park District and the last time they were at Three Rivers.

Through these “I love Three Rivers Parks!” conversations, I have met many amazing people who take full advantage of the parks. When they talk about Three Rivers, you can hear the passion and excitement in their voices. 

a brown building with trees around it and children walking up to it.
Lowry Nature Center in Carver Park Reserve.

Often, they talk about how they visited Lowry Nature Center while they were in school, or how they loved the last program they attended at Three Rivers, or when they went to the swim pond and play area with their children, or how they use the regional trails – and that one time they got a flat and used a bike repair station to fix it. 

In all of these stories, it is clear that Three Rivers Park District has been a consistent and important part of each person’s life, and that they truly value their relationship with the parks.

Unforgettable Experiences Funded By Donations

a person jumps in front a metal 5 sculpture while two others take her photo.
Jumping for a photo op in front High Five at Silverwood Park.

What many people who strike up “I love Three Rivers Parks!” conversations don’t realize is how much their experience in the parks has been impacted by donations from others who love the parks just as much. 

Many of the amenities that make Three Rivers what it is today were only possible because of donations:

  • The bike repair station that you used along the side of the trail. 
  • The memorial bench you sat on to take a rest and enjoy the view. 
  • The sculptures and artwork you enjoyed at Silverwood
  • The new dog park entrance at Elm Creek
  • The intern you talked to at your local nature center. 

In fact, many people don’t realize the important role donations played in the development of Three Rivers Park District. 

The land for the first Three Rivers park, Baker Park Reserve, was donated by the Baker family. Lowry Nature Center, Eastman Nature Center, and Richardson Nature Center were all originally constructed with funds donated by invested community members. These initial donations along with many others set Three Rivers Park District on the path to become the unique park district it is today. 

Join the Tradition

three rivers staff help a man onto an adapted paddleboard. his wheelchair is in the sand next to them.

If you ever think to yourself “I love Three Rivers Parks,” I invite you to join in the long tradition of park lovers supporting Three Rivers through donations.

You can show how much you value the parks by making an impact where it is needed most with an unrestricted donation. Or you can support a park, facility or activity meaningful to you with a directed gift. Either way, your support is vital to continuing Three Rivers’ mission of promoting environmental stewardship through recreation and education in a natural resources-based park system.

If you'd like to make your donation extend even further, consider giving to the Three Rivers Park District Foundation on Thursday, November 15, Give to the Max Day. Donations to Three Rivers will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $15,000, and will go toward adapted programs for persons with disabilities and Explorer Camps for children from underserved areas.

The next time you see a staff member in a Three Rivers shirt, I invite you to strike up an “I love Three Rivers Parks!” conversation. Tell them what you love about Three Rivers; you might be surprised to learn that it was made possible by donations. 

About the Author

Karl is the Volunteer and Donor Relations Supervisor at Three Rivers Park District. He first worked at the Park District as an Outdoor Educator in the Three Rivers Outdoor Recreation School in 2011. Karl is passionate about helping others connect with nature whether at work or through volunteering. On his days off you will find Karl out hiking in the parks, going on camping trips or canoe racing.

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