More than seven years ago, we began the process of transforming a gravel parking lot and a few trailers into a center for learning and exploration, one that would ignite curiosity and excitement about the natural world. Today, that place—the Regenstein Learning Campus—is thriving with people of all ages and abilities. They find inspiration in the quiet study of botanical arts, joy in rolling down the hills, and balance in yoga vinyasas.
The Learning Campus is just one example of what you helped us achieve in 2016 at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The “Keep Growing” campaign has raised $100 million of its $125 million goal, and we are nearing the end of fundraising for the Kris Jarantoski Campus. We thank you for believing with us that beautiful gardens and natural environments are fundamentally important to the mental and physical well-being of all people.
Throughout our 385 acres, every day of the year, people come to find respite from their busy lives. That desire helped bring more visitors than ever to the Chicago Botanic Garden. In 2016, the Garden set a new attendance record, exceeding one million visitors for the fourth consecutive year. Attendance has increased 41 percent since 2006. Each visitor is important to us, as is our desire to provide a warm welcome to everyone who visits.
What all of our visitors have in common is an appreciation of nature, and the Garden offers many opportunities to learn more about the critical roles plants play in our lives. With a mandate to preserve and protect the natural world for generations to come, Garden scientists and horticulturists traveled internationally and throughout the United States to add to our growing understanding of the plant kingdom and work on ways to mitigate the effects of climate change and urbanization.
While we work together toward a sustainable future, we are also focused on training and inspiring the conservation scientists and environmental stewards of tomorrow, from the 3- and 4-year-olds at our new Nature Preschool to the master’s and Ph.D. students in the joint program with Northwestern University. A great example is William Tenorio, a Science Career Continuum participant from 1997-99. When William was 3, he and his parents moved from Colombia to Chicago “with dreams of a better life,” he says. His experience with the Garden’s College First program helped him forge his career path. He’s now a senior hardware engineer in electric vehicle technology in Silicon Valley and is “working on green technology for a brighter future for all of us,” William says.
Every dollar of your support has been crucial in creating such opportunities for William and others who have been inspired by nature at the Chicago Botanic Garden. We are deeply grateful for our staff, board members, volunteers, and partners at the Forest Preserves of Cook County who help us advance our mission every day: We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich lives.
With gratitude and best wishes,
Jean M. Franczyk
President and CEO