THE RIPPLE EFFECT: Thanks to All Those Who Made C&NN's Sept. 6 Fundraising Gala a Huge Success — For Family Nature Clubs and the Movement

About the Author

Janice Swaisgood is the former Children & Nature Network's National Coordinator for Family Nature Clubs. A native San Diegan, she co-founded her community's club, Family Adventures in Nature San Diego, with her husband and two young boys. A teacher by training, with 15 years in the classroom, she is passionate about connecting families and children to nature in San Diego and far beyond — while always advocating for plenty of unstructured time for children's independent play and exploration.

A short film about C&NN’s family nature clubs, donated by Gear-6 Productions, narrated by Janice Swaisgood.

If I had been asked six months ago what I’d be doing this past week, I would’ve said that I’d be getting my boys settled into the new school year and  getting ready to celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary.

I might have even said that I’d be sorting out my thoughts after another fruitful Grassroots Gathering with C&NN.

I would not, however, have guessed that I’d be writing this blog post.

Ever since I discovered the Children & Nature Network, I have been a big fan and supporter. C&NN works to connect all children, families and communities to nature through initiatives like the Natural Families Network, the Natural Teachers Network and the Natural Leaders Network. These grassroots efforts support and engage everyday people like me and you in so many ways — as do grassroots campaigns like the San Diego Children & Nature.

Without C&NN, my efforts to connect people and nature would likely be isolated, and not nearly as effective. That’s why, when the opportunity to volunteer to plan a Gala came along, I jumped at the opportunity.

For several months, and in particular the past few weeks, I have been working with other volunteers to plan C&NN’s first ever fundraising Gala for Children and Nature. Of course, I couldn’t have done it without the help of many who also volunteered countless hours — particularly my new event planning partner, Robyn Bjornsson!

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None of us had ever planned an event like this, but on the evening of Sept. 6, on the last day of C&NN’s annual, international Grassroots Gathering, everything came together. The Bahia Belle – a San Diego Bay cruise ship and floating restaurant – pulled away from the dock with its tables packed and seats filled.

Old and new friends enjoyed each other and good food and drink. Our wonderful speakers included Miranda Andersen, who, when she was 14, became an international spokesperson and film maker for our cause; Robert Bateman, the world-famous artist and Canadian icon; Nkrumah Frazier, a grassroots advocate and family nature club leader from Mississippi; and author Richard Louv, C&NN chairman emeritus; and Sarah Milligan-Toffler, C&NN’s terrific new Executive Director. They spoke with passion and urgency about the movement.

Do people care? You bet. That evening, in donations and auction bids, the Gala brought in nearly three times the amount of new funding that we had hoped for! With these generous gifts, not only will we be able to expand the number of family nature clubs in San Diego and around the country — and internationally, as well.

The influence of all of C&NN’s great initiatives will grow in the wake of our evening on the bay.

Our Gala would not have been a success without C&NN’s great sponsors, including the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and our numerous table sponsorships and volunteers. Additionally, numerous items were donated for both our silent and live auctions, among them a limited edition Robert Bateman print, a photographic work of art by Birgit Bateman, and a private tour of the San Diego Zoo given by conservation biologist Ron Swaisgood (my husband), who helped save the Giant Panda. People went crazy for the trip for two to the Galapagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavor, donated by Lindblad Expeditions.

Download a Free Toolkit to Create Your Own Family Nature Club
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Download a Free Toolkit to Create Your Own Family Nature Club

Kudos are in order for Brian Horne, who came all the way from Delaware to give of himself and his time to be our incredible emcee/auctioneer. Hillary Craft, owner of Arc Imagery was also on hand to capture the magical moments of the evening, and also donated her time and talent. A special shout out also goes to Chris Pyle and Paul Wagner of Gear-6 Productions, videographers extraordinaire, who donated their time and expertise to help us make the moving video about family nature clubs and their purpose for families and children!

This short video captures the essence of family nature clubs and why they are needed, as told by a few parents from Family Adventures in Nature San Diego.

People often ask me why I do what I do — why I am so committed to connecting all children, their families and communities to nature. I have been “into” nature for a very long time, so that is certainly part of it. Like many of you, I was certainly influenced and inspired by the work of Richard Louv and the Children & Nature Network.

But really, if you watch the video, you’ll see some of the biggest reasons for yourself. It’s the families themselves. It’s because what we do in this movement can really make a difference in people’s lives.

You have the opportunity to make a difference, too. Support C&NN. Start or join a family nature club near you. Ask me how. You know why.

Resources and reading

Find out about C&NN’s Family Nature Clubs and Natural Families Network

Find out more about all of C&NN’s Worldwide Work to Connect Children to Nature
for Their Health and the Health of the Planet

The Gift of Nature Shared: How We Started Our Family Nature Club




  1. Tania Moloney

    Beautiful Janice! Your family nature club and your own nature family continually inspire me and keep me focused on connecting my own family with nature and in helping others do the same. Hope to see you in San Diego in November and I’ll be at GG 2014!
    Thank you to all involved for making this lovely short film fill our screens with hope and possibility.

  2. Thank you for reminding us to get outside with our families! For fun at home to inspire the family for more nature friendly fun, smiles, music, singing and dancing explore the wonderful work of these amazing musicians/educators at : where you will find interactive and educational children’s music with a focus on nutrition, environment, and anti-bullying. It will surely put a smile on your face!

  3. Janice,

    The gala was a wonderful event and one of the best organized and run that Lori and I have been to. You and the team did an amazing job and made it look effortless. We definitely scored on the auctions: We’ve got our new Birgit Bateman print framed and on the wall – and are looking forward to our African safari!

    Wonderful film, too! Very inspirational (and so are you!). Thanks again for all the hard work!


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