MAJOR SPONSOR SPOTLIGHT
George Henry III
Gastonia, North Carolina
In 2012, Ducks Unlimited launched its Sportsmen for Tomorrow campaign in North Carolina. The goal was to engage young people in conservation through education and volunteerism. Operating on the belief that the leaders of today have a responsibility to guide those who will take their place tomorrow, Platinum Legacy Sponsors George Henry III and his wife, Susie, made a bold and incredibly generous decision as part of the campaign.
George partnered with North Carolina DU to fund the country's first state-specific youth and education coordinator position, focused on recruiting, cultivating, and empowering the next generation of conservation ambassadors. As a result, the Tar Heel State leads much of the rest of the country in terms of the size and success of its Greenwing, Varsity, and University programs.
"The strides that have been made in DU's youth programs recently are really impressive, and I look forward to their ongoing evolution," George says. "As hunter numbers dwindle and experienced mentors age out, Ducks Unlimited provides a wonderful platform to introduce kids to hunting, conservation, and community. When you think about it, those are the core principles that really drive our passion as adult supporters. It's critical that we continue to encourage and invite children to get out from behind the computer and into the field."
Spotting a prime opportunity for youth engagement presented by DU's partnership with Future Farmers of America, George gave $200,000 to North Carolina DU in 2019 to underwrite youth memberships and fund state-specific conservation projects. The gift will educate roughly 2,500 young people on the value of DU's conservation mission and how it relates to agricultural and land stewardship practices.
"George's generosity supports incredible volumes of work in North Carolina, where many of DU's innovative youth programs were launched," says DU Manager of Youth and Education Programs Mark Horobetz.
George is the third generation of Henrys to proudly manage the family's textile finishing company, Henry Fibers. He and Susie are President's Council members and active volunteers with their local DU chapter in Gastonia, North Carolina. They also are the proud owners of Nightingale Hall Plantation in Georgetown, South Carolina. Located on the banks of the Pee Dee River, the 782-acre plantation was established in 1730, put under conservation easement with DU in 1996, and purchased by George in 2013.
"George's contributions have already laid the foundation for generations of conservationists," says DU Director of Development Will Johnson. "His continued patronage ensures that we can reward and support young men and women who have shown an interest in Ducks Unlimited, habitat, and conservation."
Waterfowlers Take to the Links
As the silver fog lifted its shroud from the morning surf surrounding California's Monterey Peninsula, a flock of waterfowlers gathered to experience some of golf's most hallowed grounds—Pebble Beach. On a weekend that traditionally marks the end of duck season across much of the country, Ducks Unlimited supporters came from far and wide to check off an item on their bucket lists. These waterfowl and golf enthusiasts had successfully bid on auctions at DU events and won the incredibly rare opportunity to play this legendary course just a few days before the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
The Ducks Unlimited Pebble Beach Experience was born in 2015 as part of the DU Approved Outfitter Program. It began with 15 foursomes, but today the experience has grown to 35 foursomes playing Pebble Beach Golf Links and The Links at Spanish Bay over two consecutive days.
DU has brought in over $1.2 million in total revenue from this unique venue, and the partnership has helped to attract people to DU events nationwide. While some are looking to visit this storied golf destination for the first time, others are seeking a second or third opportunity to experience the magnificent golf courses of Pebble Beach and the culture of service at The Inn at Spanish Bay.
In 2021 the field will grow to 62 foursomes, so now is your chance to sink that final putt on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. Learn more about DU events in your area at ducks.org/events, and we'll see you on the links!
Wisconsin Volunteers Share a Heart for Continental Conservation
Bob and Kim Spoerl are shining examples of the spirit of conservation. Bob began working with Ducks Unlimited at the grassroots level as a committee chairman for the Stevens Point, Wisconsin, chapter over 30 years ago. The Spoerl family's commitment and involvement has grown ever since.
Today, Bob sits on the boards of directors for Ducks Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited de Mexico (DUMAC). He is also a John E. Walker III Society member and a Grand Slam Benefactor. The path to these amazing accomplishments began way back when Bob was a boy growing up outside Milwaukee.
"There were two small wetland ponds near the town I grew up in," Bob recalls. "They weren't very big, about an acre each. I would see diving ducks there every year, every diving species you can think of. Developers came in and drained the ponds. Everything was gone in a flash. That's when I knew I had to do my part to save that habitat in the future."
Bob is a strong believer in the work DUMAC carries out for wetlands conservation in Mexico. "Many species of North American waterfowl rely heavily on Mexico's wintering grounds for survival," he notes. "I am excited to be involved with DUMAC, helping this great organization increase crucial wetlands habitat, aiding not only waterfowl but, just as important, the people of Mexico."
Dale and Linda Doubler Live and Work for Conservation
For Dale and Linda Doubler, conserving natural habitats is a passion that begins at home. The couple of 46 years lives in Cambridge, Illinois, and together they restored a 300-acre farm in Woodhull. The beautiful property boasts 117 acres of restored native prairie grasses and pine trees as well as a lake with bass and catfish for local anglers. The farm is used to grow corn and soybeans, and the Doublers have taken steps to ensure that it will never be developed and can be enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts for generations to come.
The Doublers' support for conservation led them to Ducks Unlimited. Dale has been area chairman of the Geneseo, Illinois, chapter for more than 24 years. He and Linda are Diamond Heritage Sponsors and have included DU in their estate plan as Platinum Feather Society members.
"Dale and Linda are simply amazing people," says DU Director of Development James Roberts. "If there is a way to support DU, they do it. They have created a legacy that will benefit generations of future waterfowlers."
Dale has always had a passion for connecting people with nature. His career as a homebuilder in Cambridge involved weaving together natural parks and new subdivisions, incorporating nature into developments. And his passion for philanthropy goes well beyond wetlands conservation. Dale started a flag program at a local cemetery to honor war veterans. He also served for 24 years as a village trustee.
"The Doublers embody the true spirit of generosity and volunteering," says DU Regional Director Brett Brown. "I have met few with more drive and dedication to our mission than Dale and Linda. They are true friends to the ducks. They live and breathe Ducks Unlimited and I just feel fortunate to have such a great friendship with them."
Florida Chapter Brings Young Volunteers and the Community Together
High school can be a busy time in young people's lives. Studies, sports, band, shooting team, and other extracurriculars mean there's rarely time for volunteering or giving back to the community. However, there are many students from across the country who give up their limited free time to help raise money for wetland habitat through Ducks Unlimited's Varsity chapters.
Mason Tarmey, area chair for the Leon Varsity chapter, worked diligently for a year to form a DU chapter at his school. When he didn't get the interest he'd hoped for, he decided to open it up to surrounding schools. The response was overwhelming—four high schools came together to form a single chapter and host a successful fundraising banquet.
"I knew that we could hold a successful event, but I had to find the right people who had a passion for Ducks Unlimited and conservation," Mason says. "Once I opened it up to surrounding schools, things just started falling into place, and we had a group of dedicated volunteers that went above and beyond to make it the success that it was."
The Leon chapter hosted the first DU Varsity banquet in Florida. The community rallied around the dedicated group of high school volunteers, and because of the young conservationists' hard work they succeeded in having the entire event underwritten.
"The support of their first event is a true testament to this group of students," says DU Regional Director Jarrett Lafferty. "Getting some underwriting and donations from local businesses is huge for any chapter, but to have your whole event underwritten is amazing, especially your first one. They had support from the Tallahassee chapter, the Florida State University chapter, and the community. People wanted to see them do well and understood the importance of what they were doing. I'm proud of their hard work and accomplishments."
The event was held this past January at the Old Willis Dairy in Tallahassee, Florida. More than 100 people attended, 60 of whom were high school students. The committee of just seven raised more than $10,000 and signed up 23 first-time Varsity members.
"It was very eye-opening to see all our hard work finally pay off," says Parker Hannon, treasurer for the Leon Varsity chapter. "It meant a lot to see the smiles on everyone's faces. We all knew we had just done something great for conservation, and that was rewarding for all of us."
The Ducks Unlimited Varsity program continues to play an increasingly important role in DU's conservation mission. Currently, there are 56 high school chapters. In 2019, those chapters raised more than $500,000 for waterfowl and habitat. DU recognizes that vibrant and strong high school chapters are an important key to a healthy future for wetlands conservation, and the organization will continue to place a strong emphasis on the development of this very successful program.
For more information on how to get involved in the DU Varsity program, visit ducks.org/varsity.
Denver Event Remains One of the Nation's Top DU Fundraisers Chapter exceeds $4 million raised for wetlands and waterfowl
For 83 years, Ducks Unlimited's conservation accomplishments have been made possible through the generosity of many volunteers, donors, and supporters. That triad of goodwill is on display throughout the year at DU fundraising events nationwide. One of the largest, the Denver Sponsor Dinner, recently celebrated its sixth year of success.
A crowd of 325 filled the convention room at the Denver Ritz Carlton, and the excitement was palpable. DU CEO Adam Putnam kicked off the event with opening remarks and later jumped in as a ringer for an intense live auction that saw multiple items sell for well above $20,000. The auction was packed with prizes donated by several generous partners and supporters.
"I was honored to be a part of one of Ducks Unlimited's top-performing events in the country," Adam said. "One ticket, one table, one raffle at a time, the Denver Sponsor Dinner has raised millions of dollars for habitat conservation in its short history. Our volunteers make it happen every year, and they are the DU secret sauce."
The Denver chapter is unique in that it is a chapter of chapters. The committee's 60 volunteers hail from more than a dozen other Colorado chapters, with some living several hours away. Led again by Chairman Sam Wigand, this army of elite volunteers pulled off a flawless event in 2019, scoring big for conservation once more.
The top live-auction item, which brought a winning bid of $28,000, was a complete collector's set of matched serial-number Beretta 687EL shotguns from Scheels All Sports (see sidebar). Participants also entered high bids for a fly-in golfing and hunting excursion in Nebraska donated by the Dismal River Club, hunting in Texas (Spread Oaks Ranch), fishing and hunting in Argentina (Andes Drifters), and stag hunting in New Zealand (John Scurr Hunting Tours). As in years past, Denver event attendees also enjoyed generous donations by Laws Whiskey and Coors.
When the inaugural Denver event was planned in 2014, the committee set a goal of raising $4 million before 2020. The sixth annual event generated more than $864,000, bringing the impressive running total to over $4.24 million for DU's conservation mission. View a time-lapse video of the 2019 event at youtu.be/DWh3HfaEJLg.
SCHEELS ENSURES MILE-HIGH SUCCESS
The featured auction item at the sixth annual Denver Sponsor Dinner was a custom-engraved matching set of Beretta 687EL shotguns (12-, 16-, 20-, and 28-gauge) generously donated by Scheels All Sports. This employee-owned company is a leader in outdoor recreation retail. The shotguns generated $28,000 for DU's conservation mission. Thank you to Scheels and the many other supporters who made the Denver event a huge success.