Connecting students with the beauty of the Valley they call home

Ted and Madeleine Dwyer feel grateful for their family’s connection with the natural world that surrounds them. Living in the Dundas Valley, they are surrounded by some of the most diverse wildlife in Southern Ontario.

Their three children, Ethan, Asia and Mahalia, each connect with nature in their own ways. Asia is an avid runner and knows the Dundas Valley trails well while Ethan and Mahalia love taking the family dog out for long walks. Though the siblings sometimes roll their eyes when their parents prattle on about the importance of being in nature, they all enjoy their family hikes together.

Sharing that experience with other families is a big part of why they donate to the Foundation’s Step Into Nature Fund. Their donations support educational programming for Elementary and Secondary students. Madeleine, who came to Canada from the Philippines with her family as a young child, sees the value in connecting young people with nature: “Lots of newcomers face many challenges and are just trying to survive when they get here,” she explains. “They don’t always have time to explore what makes this place special. With the outdoor education program, students from Hamilton’s diverse communities learn about the value and the beauty of these spaces which may be totally new to them. With any luck, they bring their families back to the conservation area on their own. Making that connection can be the beginning of something really special.”

As for their own family’s connection with nature, much of that was forged close to their old family home in Westdale. They spent plenty of time exploring the Royal Botanical Gardens’ lands around Cootes Paradise when the kids were young.

Madeleine was also familiar with the Dundas Valley CA. As a teacher at a school in Hamilton’s north-end she took a number of classes to Hamilton Conservation Authority’s education programs in the Valley. “I had students who were used to being surrounded by concrete. The big, beautiful forest was a really exciting adventure for them,” she recalled.
The family’s own adventures took them to Europe and after a few years in Belgium and the Netherlands, they were ready to return home. When it was time to find a place to live, they were eager to settle in the Valley. They recently did major renovations on the home they chose almost ten years ago now. These included a number of measures to mitigate their footprint including solar panels and a geothermal system. Seeking a permit from HCA was a learning experience in and of itself. “We didn’t realize there were species at risk right here in the Valley when we started this process,” Madeleine explains. “For example, preparations for our renos involved taking steps to protect the habitat of the Jefferson Salamander. Now that we are more aware, we have even more reasons to appreciate and care for what surrounds us.”

The family wanted to do more, though, and got in touch with the Foundation to see how they could support the Valley. After meeting with Foundation Executive Director, Grace Correia, they decided to make a donation to the Step Into Nature Fund. It was important to try and help instill a love and respect for nature, particularly the Valley, through supporting outdoor education programs.

Madeleine and Ted want to do what they can for the community where they make a home. Though they have indicated that they plan to support the Foundation through a gift in their will, they’re eager to see that impact now, too.

They have supported the Step Into Nature Fund for two years now, helping HCA’s education programs weather the storm of the ongoing pandemic. Thanks to their generosity, the programs are able to connect with students remotely and will be ready to welcome classes back to the Dundas Valley CA as soon as it is safe to do so, helping to inspire a new generation of families to forge their own connections with nature.