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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 2023, the 10 largest DU events, including various sources of income and Major Sponsor contributions, collectively raised an impressive $6,975,510 for wetlands and waterfowl conservation.

#1: Illinois–Lake Forest Area Chapter

Lake Forest Evening of Conservation

Area Chair Spencer Bleeker

Regional Director Rodney Schlafer

Senior Director of Development James Roberts

Chapter Success $1,318,869

Maintaining its prestigious position for the second consecutive year, the Lake Forest Evening of Conservation secured the #1 spot among all DU events. Building upon their previous success, the Lake Forest Area chapter once again orchestrated an extraordinary evening dedicated to conservation, leaving an indelible mark on DU’s conservation mission. Senior Director of Development James Roberts acknowledged the exceptional efforts of the Lake Forest Area committee, stating, “The Lake Forest Area committee has been going above and beyond for years.” Attendees were privileged to be joined by DU Chairman of the Board Doug Schoenrock and CEO Adam Putnam, who shared captivating stories and conservation aspirations. The Lake Forest Area chapter has been blessed with an impassioned group of conservationists who consistently rise to the occasion. Once again, they demonstrated their commitment in an extraordinary manner this year.

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Courtesy of the Lake Forest Area Chapter

(From left) DU CEO Adam Putnam, Jim Calaway, Steve Worth, Bryan Wiesner, Area Chair Spencer Bleecker, Regional Director Rodney Schlafer, and Managing Director of Development James Roberts at the Lake Forest chapter’s Evening of Conservation, which was the nation’s top DU fundraising event for all sources of income in Fiscal Year 2023.

#2: Texas–Houston Chapter

Houston Legacy Gala

Area Chair Cole Munger

Senior Regional Director Jason McKey

Senior Director of Development Matt Bunn

Chapter Success $1,037,686

The Houston Legacy Gala, one of DU’s many prominent events in Texas, receives tremendous support from Houston’s business leaders and conservation-oriented corporations. This year, the event served as a platform to celebrate and pay tribute to Bill and Libbie Ansell, the deserving recipients of the chapter’s 2022 Conservation Stewardship Award. These esteemed individuals have a long-standing history as DU volunteers, significant contributors, and unwavering advocates of the organization’s wetlands and waterfowl conservation mission. The culmination of the night witnessed a remarkable achievement—more than $1 million raised for DU’s conservation efforts. 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 make sure the 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 $977,607

More than 150 people gathered at the Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville, California, for this year’s 11th Anniversary Blackhawk Diamond Gala. Co-chair and Past DU President Paul Bonderson Jr. stated, “It was another great Blackhawk event! I would like to thank David and Pepper for continuing to provide great auction items and members to buy them.” Pepper Snyder, a previous event honoree and co-chair, commended everyone involved in making the event a resounding success. Snyder expressed her heartfelt appreciation, noting, “I would like to thank all our loyal supporters who have been attending our dinners for years. Their support is so greatly appreciated.”

#4: Texas–Houston Chapter

Houston Evening of Conservation by Gordy & Sons Outfitters

Area Chair Mac Bullock

Senior Regional Director Jason McKey

Senior Director of Development Matt Bunn

Chapter Success $888,370

The Houston chapter’s Evening of Conservation was hosted by the premier outdoor store Gordy & Sons Outfitters of Houston. Senior Regional Director Jason McKey thanked the Gordy family for their continued generosity. “This very unique event took place due to the generosity of the Gordy family. Their willingness to continue to host this event in their truly magnificent hunting and fishing store here in Houston is simply an honor,” McKey said. “Under the leadership of Area Chair Mac Bullock, this group of highly motivated and dedicated volunteers and staff set out to make this one of the Top 10 DU events in 2023, and they did it. It’s very cool that they reached their goal, and I only see bigger and better things ahead for 2024.”

#5: South Carolina–East Cooper Chapter 

Annual Oyster Roast and Lowcountry Cookout

Area Chair Dr. Mark Hartley

Senior Regional Director James Meadows

Managing Director of Development Will Johnson

Chapter Success $641,994

The East Cooper chapter’s 26th Annual Oyster Roast and Lowcountry Cookout at the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition (SEWE) was another record-breaking night for this stellar DU committee. Year after year, the East Cooper volunteers surpass their own achievements and persistently enhance the event to generate more dollars for conservation. This year, they moved up three spots in the rankings due to the incredible hard work of volunteers that host this event annually. “There is something exceptional about being in Charleston during SEWE weekend, and this year was no exception,” said Senior Regional Director James Meadows. “DU is grateful for the partnership with SEWE and their support for our conservation efforts in the Lowcountry. SEWE weekend in Charleston should be on everyone’s bucket list.”


Baton Rouge Sponsor Banquet

Area Chair Lea Benoit and Amber Moreau

Regional Director Zac Brown

Director of Development Erin Brown

Chapter Success $474,142

This year’s Baton Rouge Sponsor Banquet witnessed a remarkable turnout, setting a record for attendance. The tireless efforts and remarkable commitment of this exceptional committee persistently elevate the support for DU’s conservation mission, once again securing the committee’s position among the Top 10 this year. Senior Regional Director Zac Brown explained, “Honoring the Reillys and Lamar Advertising was truly a privilege for us and the members of the Baton Rouge committee. Their dedication to DU and the Louisiana Gulf Coast Initiative was the driving force behind the success of our event.”


Marsh Lake 40th Annual Shoot and Banquet

Area Chair Tim Foster

Senior Regional Director John Marks

Senior Director of Development Adam DeHaan

Chapter Success $467,991

For four decades, the Foster family has been at the forefront of Marsh Lake attendees, demonstrating unwavering support for Ducks Unlimited. Their dedication has spanned two generations and will soon begin a third. Witnessing their continuous growth and involvement in the DU mission is an extraordinary example of DU’s impact. Tim Foster, alongside the Foster team, and the other members of the DU committee have discovered secret ingredients that are central to the chapter’s remarkable success. “It comes down to the three Ps: passion for waterfowl hunting, purpose to steward the resource and hand down our hunting heritage to future generations, and most importantly, the right people who share your passion and purpose,” Tim said. “You also need to have a lot of fun, which is easy with the people who attend the Marsh Lake event!”


Seattle Dinner and Auction

Area Chair Scott Gunning

Senior Regional Director Dan Heep

Director of Development Garrett Coussens

Chapter Success $444,591

The Annual Seattle Dinner and Auction is back in the Top 10 after hosting an impressive group of 150 attendees at their 2022 event. The evening included an entertaining live auction, a special giving opportunity, a fabulous dinner, and a special tribute to local conservation champion Jay Ackley. The atmosphere was filled with excitement, and the attendees exhibited tremendous generosity. “This event would not be possible without the tremendous dedication and support of our table captains and their guests, who attended and gave so generously. We were inspired, energized, and entertained as we raised support for DU’s vital conservation work in Washington and beyond,” said Area Chair Scott Gunning.


Downtown Birmingham Fall Classic

Area Chair Robert Fritze

Senior Regional Director Neely Raper

Managing Director of Development Shawn Battison

Chapter Success $379,159

The 2022 Downtown Birmingham Fall Classic was truly a marquee event. Taking place on October 6, the event coincided with an Evening of Conservation honoring former DU President and current Chairman of the Board Doug Schoenrock. The event achieved resounding success, graced by the presence of esteemed individuals, including many senior volunteers and executive leaders. Notably, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey was in attendance. Area Chair Robert Fritze expressed his gratitude, saying, “This event would not have been possible without the dedication of our Downtown Birmingham volunteers and others around the state. I was incredibly proud and honored to be part of such a record-breaking event in the state of Alabama and to be able to give back to a resource that we all enjoy so much. We all look forward to continuing our conservation efforts so that the next generation can have the same, if not better, opportunities in the field that those before us have provided.”


Kenosha DU Banquet

Area Chair Chad Navis

Senior Regional Director Tom Munich

Managing Director of Development Steve Kass

Chapter Success $345,101

The Kenosha DU chapter, in partnership with Dick and Liz Uihlein, hosted its annual DU celebration event at ULINE’S corporate headquarters in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. This highly anticipated event showcases a distinguished keynote speaker each year. Past speakers included DU presidents and other renowned international conservation leaders. The speakers all convey a powerful message, emphasizing the vital link between local fundraising endeavors and the overall success of DU’s continental conservation work. This unique blend of communication and fundraising has consistently attracted influential figures from the conservation-focused business community in southern Wisconsin, who generously contribute to DU’s conservation initiatives across North America. “The event would not be possible without the collective effort of the entire DU supporter flock,” stated Area Chair Chad Navis. “Our local, regional, and national DU volunteers work together with DU’s dedicated development, event fundraising, and conservation staff to create an exciting atmosphere, which encourages the generous financial support of the event’s hosts and attendees.”