Serendipitous Bike Ride Spurs $500,000 Challenge

1978296_10152460442927897_6238256164390704411_oBack in November, a San Diego businessman was riding his bike down South Coast Hwy. in Oceanside, when he noticed a large sign posted on a vacant parcel of land at the edge of Buena Vista Lagoon. “Help Buy This Land!,” the sign exclaimed. “Join the Ridgway’s Rail Society.” The next day, the Nature Center received a call from the man’s secretary, wondering if we needed help with our project. I quickly returned the call, and a meeting at the Nature Center was arranged for the next week.

As usual, the Nature Center was a busy place on the day of our meeting. Over 60 third-grade students had arrived on buses provided by BVAS, and were being guided around in smaller groups by the Nature Guides. The garden crew was busy at the gardens and trails. Other volunteers were hosting the desk, working on the bulletin board, and cleaning up in the kitchen. I explained to our visitor that BVAS had already been able to raise the funds needed to acquire the lagoon parcel, but we had a number of other needs where we could use some help. He asked about our nature programs, our annual budget, the number of volunteers we had helping out. The two of us listened in as the Nature Guides passed around nests, bones, and other nature finds, and answered questions from the excited young students. Our Nature Center Manager, Annette, talked to us about growing up in urban Orange County, and how difficult it was for her to experience nature in her community. I explained that almost every dollar raised by BVAS is spent on the Nature Center and programs, with everything done by volunteers and provided free of charge to the community.

Two weeks after our meeting, I received a call. Our visitor had decided he wanted to help us build a permanent Nature Center Endowment Fund of $500,000, to help insure that we would always have the funds needed to continue to provide our community- based nature programs! He would match every dollar we could raise for this new endowment on a two-for-one basis until we reached the goal of $500,000. However much we raised would instantly triple in value. If we could raise $167,000, he would match it with his maximum contribution of $333,000.

Who is this gentleman, and what are the details of this wonderful new endowment? That will all be made clear in the April newsletter. In the meantime, any donation of $100 or more, and all proceeds from fundraising events like the Birdhouse Auction, will be eligible for those matching funds. What a lovely day it was for someone to take a bike ride!

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