Category Archives: Donor Stories

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.

The Goemans Family

“All three generations of us Goemans boys enjoyed exploring this wonderful hidden gem that’s right in our backyard” says Jason Goemans, eldest son of his late father Tony. “Growing up as kids we played, hiked, made forts & fires around the Devil’s Punchbowl area and Bruce trail… as we got older and had our own kids we re-experienced the same fun and added great memories all over again. My dad and I would walk our dogs every morning for nearly 15 years, rain or shine, discussing every topic of life. Precious time I now cherish even more. My late son, Hunter too loved to go up with his papa and throw sticks in the creek and look out over the city spotting landmarks he recognized. We have a deep connection with that place and hope that other families get to appreciate what we’ve known our whole lives. It’s truly a remarkable green space that offers breathtaking views of the city. It is also in our opinion underutilized and hopefully our donation will spark some more interest.”

Jason Goemans on behalf of the Goemans Family, November, 2013

Terry O’Sullivan

One of our longstanding family traditions is drawing names for Christmas presents. This past year, I wanted to get a non-traditional gift for my brother-in-law and I knew he would appreciate something that connected with the local community, something that others could share in. As a lifelong Dundas resident, my gift of a donation in his name to the EcoPark Campaign proved to be the perfect idea. Connecting with our community in this way is something close to us. The Foundation followed up this donation with a letter of acknowledgment and advised the donation was being directed to the gateway work. His gift letter arrived just before Christmas and was proudly posted. Needless to say he was proud knowing he was helping out his local community. My sincere appreciation to staff and volunteers of the Hamilton Conservation Authority and the Foundation for the professional manner in which my personal request was handled and for the fine work they do for the citizens of Hamilton.

Terry O’Sullivan, February 2012

Student Bursary Recipients

Through bursary funding provided by the Hamilton Conservation Foundation, we were privileged to have attended the 18th Annual A.D. Latornell Conservation Symposium. We found ourselves uniquely positioned as the only student attendees from HCA and the fact the Foundation made it possible for us to attend demonstrates their contribution to awareness and capacity for conservation programs. Participating in the symposium created new connections, led to learning opportunities and provided the forum for us to participate in dialogue with like-minded environmental leaders. It has validated our work as well as future career aspirations; delivering inspirational ideas and reinforcing our passion. The desire to contribute further in helping to improve the natural environment has certainly been strengthened. So much more needs to be done and we are now better equipped to help educate and guide others to make positive environmental change in our daily lives.

Nicholas Schwetz, Maegen Wardell & Juliana Lopez – November 2011

Carolyn Rogers

The access we have to outdoor space and natural lands is one of the most amazing things about Hamilton. We often forget how close we are to trail systems, parks and unique sites. Hiking has become an important family activity for us; on a weekly basis we explore trails, visit parks and make the most of our natural surroundings. Being a Nature Rewards pass holder for the past seven years, we have found it to be an ideal way to support conservation lands and receive tremendous value. In raising awareness, providing venues for education and protecting these resources for young people and future generations, the Nature’s Rewards pass has given us a ticket to explore our great city. Our active lifestyle is well suited to the trails, conservation areas and parks that are so brilliantly linked throughout the community. As a pass holder it helps build greater access for everyone in the community.

Dr. Carolyn Rogers, December 2011

Margaret Firth

My husband Derek, and I, began volunteering at Westfield Heritage Village in Summer 1994 helping in several areas but mainly on the Train Station and in the Dry Goods store, collectively amassing more than 12,000 volunteer hours since 2000.

History has always been an important part of our lives and Westfield provides an opportunity to share our love of Hamilton and the surrounding area’s interesting past.

Regularly meeting people from across Canada, the United States and around the world is a special ingredient in our volunteer experience. The friendship and camaraderie among staff and volunteers is an important part of being a Westfield volunteer, and passing on our enthusiasm for the Village is an enriching experience. Derek passed away in August 2010, leaving a bequest for a commemorative bench to be made and installed on the Train Station. Donations, in his memory, will be put towards the restoration of the Westbrook House. Life is forever a learning experience and introducing many generations to our cultural heritage is an important component of education for everyone. I continue to support Westfield as an active volunteer and as Past President of the Friends of Westfield Board of Directors.

Margaret Firth, September 2011

Bill Kennedy

The notion of conservation replicates the ideals that I believe in today and have believed in for most of my life. My family always believed stewardship of the land was something that was engrained in you, something you did because it was what had to be done. My passion for natural lands spans more than 60 years and continues today with active involvement in maintaining conservation lands surrounding our farm and with the Dundas Tree Keepers.

Natural evolution of the land must still be supported by careful thought, planning and love. Our natural landscape is a finite precious resource and each of us has a responsibility to protect it. The Bruce Trail Conservancy has been granted permission to cross our property in perpetuity with the agreement to maintain the trail. We have donated lands through the Foundation in hopes of ensuring others who come after us will have the same opportunity to appreciate, utilize and celebrate our natural environment.

Mr. Bill Kennedy, August 2011

Bill Filer

For more than 40 years my family lived on a 25 acre parcel of land in the heart of the Dundas Valley. Living here always took us away, providing the feeling that we were 1000 miles away from any urban city.

It’s very rare to have the gem that Hamilton enjoys with the Valley, we’re not making any more land and the priceless resource that is our natural space must be protected. Future generations rely on the efforts of volunteers and expert staff to maintain and improve the natural landscape.

Each of us has a responsibility to leave the land better than when we found it. My family and I contribute to the well being of conservation lands as part of my belief in giving back. We’ve aided in the planting of several thousand trees on the property in hopes that our legacy will be one of stewardship. We’ve been fortunate to spend much of our lives getting pleasure from the natural environment that has surrounded us and now we give to share the Valley with others.

Mr. Bill Filer, August 2011