TALLAHASSEE, FL – More than 300 participants from across the state met at the 2019 Audubon Assembly in Gainesville Florida to discuss conservation, water, and birds. Field trips, learning sessions, a plenary panel, and keynote presentation by Dr. Tom Frazer, Chief Science Officer for Florida, focused on science-based strategies for clean water and healthy watersheds, while awards recognized individuals and organizations that went above and beyond to create a more resilient Florida.
This year’s Philanthropist of the Year award honored the Naples-based Rathmann Family Foundation for their generosity and passion for addressing the water problems in Southwest Florida. Over the past five years, the foundation has seeded a $2-million campaign to restore 1,000 acres of marsh and prairie wetlands at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. The Foundation is not only providing multi-year funding for the initiative but has been visionary with their investment – committing over $375K over the past 5 years and the next 3 years – and catalyzing the investment of an additional investment of almost $400K from other funders. Audubon was pleased to present this year’s Philanthropist of the Year award to Jim Rathmann, President of the Rathmann Family Foundation, who accepted the award on the Foundation’s behalf.
Also taking a top honor were Dick and Sharon Stilwell, volunteers at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, who received the Volunteer of the Year award. Together, Sharon and Dick have amassed more than 4,700 career service hours since 2006 at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. As active volunteers, Dick and Sharon serve as Boardwalk Naturalists, guiding specialty Early Birding Walks, leading backcountry buggy tours, as well as serving as members of the Cypress Council, the Sanctuary’s highest level of donors. Finally, Sharon serves on the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Sustainability Board. Dr. Lisa Korte, Director of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, received the award on behalf of the Stilwells.