Ducks Unlimited's Top Ten Events of 2022

Congratulations to the top chapters for Fiscal Year 2022

(From left) Spencer Bleecker, Lance Buhrman, past Area Chair Steve Worth, Wetlands America Trust Trustee Dave Bunning, Area Chair Bryan Wiesner, and past Area Chair Jim Calaway at the Lake Forest chapter’s Evening of Conservation, which was the nation’s top DU fundraising event (all income sources) during the past fiscal year.


The foundation of Ducks Unlimited’s success can be attributed to the hard work and dedication of its local fundraising chapters and the professional field staff who partner with them. During Fiscal Year 2022, DU committees continued to face challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, but DU chapters across the country still found ways to host successful fundraising events, which are so crucial to the organization’s mission.

#1: ILLINOIS–LAKE FOREST AREA CHAPTER

Lake Forest Evening of Conservation

Area Chair: Bryan Wiesner

Regional Director: Matt Richard

Senior Director of Development: James Roberts

Chapter Success: $3,345,407

After placing second on last year’s Top 10 List, the Lake Forest Area committee had one goal this year—to take the #1 spot. This would prove to be a massive challenge when pandemic-related gathering restrictions limited the event’s size to only 50 people. However, a record-breaking “Raise the Paddle” fundraiser carried the Lake Forest chapter’s Evening of Conservation across the finish line to top all other DU events in the country last fiscal year.

Senior Director of Development James Roberts explained the committee’s longstanding success: “The Lake Forest Area committee has been going above and beyond for years. Their efforts throughout the year culminate at their event in September, and this year’s unprecedented success was the result of many decades of consistent hard work and tremendous dedication from this outstanding committee.”

#2: TEXAS–HOUSTON CHAPTER

Houston Legacy Gala

Area Chair: Cole Munger

Senior Regional Director: Jason McKey

Senior Director of Development: Matt Bunn

Chapter Success: $2,203,288

As one of DU’s marquee events in Texas every year, the Houston Legacy Gala is supported by area business leaders and conservation-minded corporations. This year the chapter celebrated and honored its 2021 Conservation Stewardship Award recipient, Sam Smolik, a longtime stalwart in the Houston business community, DU volunteer, major donor, and staunch proponent of the organization’s wetlands and waterfowl conservation mission.

Houston Area Chair Cole Munger shared his thoughts on the event: “I am very proud and honored to work with all the Houston chapter volunteers and the tireless efforts they put forth to ensure our Legacy Gala is a huge success.”

#3: CALIFORNIA–BLACKHAWK CHAPTER

Blackhawk Diamond Gala

Area Chairs: Paul Bonderson Jr., David Grieve, and Pepper Snyder

Senior Regional Director: Frank Leonardi

Senior Director of Development: Anne Hansen

Chapter Success: $873,317

After a two-year hiatus, more than 200 DU members, guests, and volunteers gathered in person to celebrate DU’s 10th Anniversary Diamond Gala at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, California. Pepper Snyder was the 2022 event honoree. Snyder is a champion of conservation whose leadership, generosity, and philanthropy have had a major impact on wetlands and waterfowl in California and beyond.

“We were thrilled to finally gather together in person again,” said event co-chair and past DU President Paul Bonderson Jr. “Our 10th Anniversary Gala was a resounding success, due in large part to my good friend Pepper Snyder.”

#4: TEXAS–GALVESTON CHAPTER

Galveston Couples Dinner and Dance

Area Chair: Libbie Ansell

Senior Regional Director: Jason McKey

Senior Director of Development: Matt Bunn

Chapter Success: $423,494

The Galveston chapter’s willingness and determination to make this event better every year is the secret to their success. Countless hours go into planning the evening, and it would not happen without the dedication of Galveston DU volunteers and Area Chair Libbie Ansell.

“Libbie and her team have already challenged themselves to make next year’s event different and even more successful than last year,” said Senior Regional Director Jason McKey. “I am proud to work with a team that is so passionate about conserving habitat to leave a legacy for future generations.”

#5: LOUISIANA–LAFAYETTE CHAPTER

Lafayette Sponsor Event

Area Chairs: Quinn Salmon and Beau Phares

Senior Regional Director: Derrick Davis

Senior Director of Development: Bob Dew

Chapter Success: $413,905

The 2021 Lafayette Sponsor Event was a night to remember, hosting one of the best live auction lineups ever at this popular annual gathering. Participation from local sponsors and major donors helped drive a huge turnout with outstanding auction items. The chapter is looking forward to building on last year’s success to make next year even better.

“Each year, we strive to bring more supporters to our annual Lafayette Sponsor Event. In 2022, our live auction experienced strong bidding, which helped raise more money for Ducks Unlimited,” said Area Chair Quinn Salmon.

#6: NORTH CAROLINA–CHARLOTTE CHAPTER

Charlotte Fall Gala

Area Chair: Nick Barringer

Regional Director: Jon Sturgill

Director of Development: Will Johnson

Chapter Success: $405,471

The Charlotte chapter’s success starts with incredible leadership, executive committee involvement, volunteers, and generous support from both corporate sponsors and attendees.

Area Chair Nick Barringer credits teamwork for the Charlotte chapter’s success, including his committee, sponsors, attendees, and staff. “Everyone played such an integral part in the success,” Barringer said. “The collaboration with Will Johnson, the development director for our region, over the past few years has helped us bring corporate leaders to the event. This helps set the tone for the evening and creates an environment where others want to be included.”

#7: TENNESSEE–NASHVILLE CHAPTER

Music City Corporate Shoot

Area Chair: Dr. Brian Priddle

Senior Regional Director: Charlie Lowrey

Director of Development: Sage Stockton

Chapter Success: $394,240

The 9th Annual Music City Corporate Shoot, which was held at the Nashville Gun Club, was the committee’s best event to date. Twenty-five corporate teams from the Nashville area enjoyed a day of competitive shooting with lunch remarks by DU President Doug Schoenrock and CEO Adam Putnam.

Dr. Priddle spoke to the event’s winning formula: “The Nashville corporate shoot relies on the generosity of our title sponsors. These sponsors put together teams through elicitation and participation, which are vital to our success. Because of the hard work of our staff and volunteer teams, the event runs smoothly year after year. Most teams return annually to participate and support the conservation mission of DU.”

#8: SOUTH CAROLINA-EAST COOPER CHAPTER

SEWE Oyster Roast

Area Chair: Dr. Mark Hartley

Senior Regional Director: James Meadows

Director of Development: Will Johnson

Chapter Success: $352,629

The East Cooper chapter hosted its 25th Annual Oyster Roast at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) on February 18. With more than 1,400 attendees, the event was a tremendous success and raised crucial funds for DU’s conservation efforts. The oyster roast has a rich history of partnership with SEWE, which brings thousands of conservation-minded people to Charleston each year.

“After not being able to host an in-person event in 2021, the East Cooper chapter was excited to return to in-person operations in 2022,” said longtime Area Chair Dr. Mark Hartley. “Although we faced lingering pandemic-related attendance restrictions, the committee took this as a challenge and produced record-breaking numbers with our event.”

#9: WISCONSIN–KENOSHA CHAPTER

Kenosha Dinner

Area Chairs: Chad Navis and Chelsea Couette

Senior Regional Director: Tom Munich

Senior Director of Development: Steve Kass

Chapter Success: $340,158

The Kenosha chapter, in partnership with Dick and Liz Uihlein, of Uline, hosted its annual celebration event at Uline’s corporate headquarters. The dinner, which hit a milestone five-year anniversary in 2021, was the top DU event in Wisconsin, drawing more than 200 attendees and raising nearly $350,000 for the ducks.

“Once again the event’s host, supporters, and volunteers answered the call to continue their support for DU’s conservation mission,” said Area Chair Chad Navis. “In its fifth year, this annual gathering has raised nearly $1.5 million for the ducks, making a difference and having fun doing it!”

#10: COLORADO–DENVER CHAPTER

Denver Sponsor Gala

Area Chair: Jimmy Kopp

Senior Regional Director: Erik Wettersten

Senior Director of Development: Sean Stone

Chapter Success: $335,476

Despite pandemic-related closures and setbacks, the Denver Gala committee executed a flawless and fun event. Thanks to generous donations from numerous sponsors, the team was able to offer an assortment of novel items and unique raffles that made the night a hit. From the first raffle ticket to the final checkout, the event was high tempo, smooth, and a testimony to teamwork.

“I’m proud of both the Denver Gala team and the DU community that supported the event. The continued dedication to support the mission and come together for such a fantastic night was truly remarkable,” said Area Chair Jimmy Kopp.