When Stephanie Frucella and her brother, Stephen, were children, their family couldn't afford opportunities like the wonderful summer day camps now offered by the Audubon Center and Sanctuary. But their mother, Kathleen, enjoyed taking them to Audubon and chaperoning their school field trips so she could see their fascination with the frogs, turtles, birds and other animals.
Frucella was an outstanding student at Jamestown High School and Jamestown Community College, then SUNY Fredonia as well. Her love of children and desire to help others led her to become a teacher.
After her tragic death almost two years ago, her parents wanted to do something to honor her memory. One of their decisions was to make an annual donation to the Jamestown Audubon Society so that children could experience the wonder of nature at Audubon's day camps.
Bob Frucella, Stephanie's dad, explains, "When our kids were growing up, we didn't have much money. Audubon was a great place for my wife and kids to go, but we couldn't have afforded summer day camp. Our situation is different now. We wanted to give to other kids what we couldn't afford for ours."
Last summer was the first time that two children were able to go to day camp at Audubon thanks to the Frucellas' generosity. But there is a qualifier.
"Stephanie was a teacher," her father explained, "and she thought if you worked hard, you'd get things."
For the Stephanie Frucella Memorial Scholarship, her parents require that the children write an essay about why they want to go to Audubon camp.
The Frucellas are not alone in honoring someone important to them through a campership. An anonymous donor provided the Archie Richardson Memorial Scholarship this past summer as well, also with the understanding that it would go to a child who wanted to learn about nature.
More than 10,000 children benefit from Audubon's environmental education programs each year. Between 200 and 300 of these attend summer day camps.
Many others come on school field trips to the Center's facilities that include more than five miles of beautifully maintained trails on a 600-acre wetland preserve. They visit the three-story nature center building that contains a collection of live fish, reptiles and amphibians, plus interactive displays that engage and inform. The Center also cares for a non-releasable bald eagle named Liberty that provides many teaching and learning opportunities.
In addition, Audubon's four nature educators spend hundreds of hours in classrooms throughout Chautauqua County over the course of the school year. With different lessons for pre-kindergarten through sixth graders, these passionate instructors engage their students in the wonders of the natural world, for which they will soon be responsible.
With significantly more scholarship money available in 2009, Audubon was able to help 15 percent more campers than in 2008.
The summer of 2010 will be a much tougher challenge for welcoming day campers with limited financial resources: a one-time major gift from a corporate sponsor that assisted 35 campers with their fees will not be available.
Research has shown that programs like Audubon's have a lasting impact on children. A campership in honor or memory of a friend or loved one helps preserve the environment by supporting nature education. Your support of a campership could give a child her first opportunity to truly experience nature.
Your donation to Audubon's annual fund would help guarantee that the Center and its staff can continue to inspire a love of nature that will develop environmentally aware and responsible adults.
In this season of giving, what better gift could there be.
Your tax-deductible donation to the Audubon Center and Sanctuary's annual fund or for a campership for 2010 summer day camps can be made to the Jamestown Audubon Society by check or credit card. Checks can be mailed to 1600 Riverside Road, Jamestown, NY 14701; credit card contributions can be made by calling 569-2345. For more information, you can call 569-2345 and speak with President Ruth Lundin or program and camp director Jennifer Schlick. You can visit us at that same address, just off Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown.
Pat Brininger is a volunteer for Audubon and sends out most of the press releases you see in the paper, keeping you up to date about what's going on.