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Sparkling 2016 Spring Gathering featured generosity of communities near and far

At the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists (MVFN) 2016 Spring Gathering held on May 19th, Jennifer Kingsley’s “Meet the North” presentation and the generosity of communities near and far shone brightly. The sold-out event saw more than 150 in the community enjoy a reception and banquet dinner in the Almonte Civitan Community Hall decorated with the color and glow of the “Northern Lights.”

Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 1

MVFN’s 2016 Spring Gathering event was enjoyed by a sell-out crowd at the Almonte Civitan Community Hall, decorated for the evening with a Northern Lights theme thanks to the creative mind and energy of Lucy Carleton and her team.

Through the keynote presentation we were privileged to meet many generous people who are making a good life for themselves and their families in Northern communities (in locales such as Longyearbyen, Svalbard; Pond Inlet, Nunavut; Iceland), and who invited guest speaker journalist/naturalist Jennifer Kingsley into their homes and lives as she traveled to “Meet the North” one introduction at a time. It seemed as if the Arctic circle curved south for this one night as we learned quite unexpected things about Northern life from the sparkling personality of Kingsley. On her journey, Kingsley explained, she has had to “let expectations go” and the result she said is summed up with the word “unexpected.” Enjoying tea in Pond Inlet made with fresh water collected from a nearby iceberg!  The unexpected stories from “Meet the North” were told formally for the first time at MVFN’s Spring Gathering, leaving the audience intrigued and humbled by many special moments, for example images of a group of people with divergent political views together “singing their hearts out” in a coal mine in a distant Norwegian archipelago. The stories were all brought to life in the images of photographer Eric Guth, carried south and shared by Kingsley. You can follow the continuing journey on-line on Kingsley’s “Meet the North” blog.

Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 2 a

Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 2 b

At MVFN’s Spring Gathering, Jennifer Kingsley shared her “Meet the North” stories and signed copies of her award-winning book “Paddle North: Adventure, Resilience and Renewal in the Arctic Wild.”

The generosity of our local community also shone very brightly on this Spring Gathering evening. Thanks to the support of bidders and individuals and business who contributed to a silent auction, over $3000 was raised for MVFN’s Environmental Education program. This program is currently supporting Monarch butterfly conservation education at seventeen local and nearby primary schools. Using provided plants, soil, and milkweed seeds butterfly gardens are being, or have already been, developed and are being nurtured. In September, with “live monarch release kits” students will observe the life cycle of the butterfly and regenerate the “super-generation” of this imperiled species. A special thank you to the following contributors for enabling these efforts!

Our 2016 donors: Garden Inspirations, Pat Purdy, Greta Bradley, Ken Allison, Carolyn Lunn, Bob and Sherryl Smith, David Sale, Love That Barr, Pakenham General Store, Pakenham Golf & Country Club, Terri Knuuttila, Mill Street Books, Arnold Polk, Cartwright Springs Brewery, Textile Traditions, My Upholstery Shop, JB Arts, Blackbird Home Décor, Kentfield Kids, Gene Fytche, Centennial Restaurant, Fern Martin, Al Potvin, Paddye Mann, Jim Bendell, Bob McCook, Equator Coffee,  Mississippi Valley Conservation Authority, Marion Wilson, Fulton’s Maple Sugar Products, Fairwinds B&B, Pakenham Horticultural Society, JazzNHouse, Cliff Bennett, Wilderness Tours, Helena & Gerome Knap, Alan Goddard, Café Postino, Al Barratt, Chris Hashimoto, Whitehouse Perennials, Five Span Feed & Seed, L.G. Lee & Sons, Maple Leaf Auctions, Howard Clifford, Acanthus Florals, Almonte Fitness Club,  The Mill Street Crepe Company, Textile Traditions, Almonte Bike Shop, Barley Mow Pub, Mississippi Animal Hospital, Mississippi Golf Club, Nancy Young, General Fine Craft, Gilligallou, Healthy Food Technologies Inc. (HFT), Baker Bobs, Nicholson’s, Vamos, Home Hardware.

MVFN as a charitable organization and member group of Ontario Nature has a mission to advance nature education and conservation, and presents several awards to recognize and support excellence. At the Spring Gathering, the 2016 Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary Award for post-secondary education was presented to St. John Catholic High School (Perth) student Erin Symon who will begin a 4-year Bachelor of Arts degree program in Environmental and Resource Studies in September.

Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 3

Erin Symon, a student at St. John Catholic High School in Perth, was awarded the 2016 Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary for post-secondary studies presented by Cliff Bennett (left) and Nature Bursary Committee Chair Mike Macpherson.

In addition to the student award, two MVFN Champion for Nature awards were presented, to recognize individuals or groups for outstanding achievements in wildlife conservation, and whose actions have raised awareness and contributed to the protection of our local natural heritage. Dr. Tineke Kuiper, a resident of Wolf Grove and former MVFN Board member and Program Chair, was nominated for her tireless research work making presentations and providing support and advice regarding development of Natural Heritage System policies for Mississippi Mills and for heading up MVFN’s recent efforts to prevent development within Burnt Lands Alvar. A second 2016 Champion for Nature award was presented to Ray Holland, a “transporting angel of injured birds.” Lynda Bennett: “There is nothing Ray would not do to protect any living species.”  In the 1980’s Ray helped Kathy Nehei save hundreds of Ring-billed gulls and as a resident of Pakenham, he has spent a lifetime studying birds and their habitat. He watched over and cared for the female Bullock’s Oriole found in Pakenham last March. More detailed Champion “Profiles” can be found at

Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 5
Ray Holland receives Champion for Nature Award. photo P. Donaldson
Spring Gathering 2016 Photo 4
Tineke Kuiper (L) is presented with an MVFN Champion for Nature award by MVFN President Brenda Boyd

The 2016 MVFN Champion for Nature Awards were presented by MVFN President Brenda Boyd (right in both photos), one to Tineke Kuiper and the other to Ray Holland.

MVFN wholeheartedly thanks everyone who made the event such a success! We remind members of the upcoming summer paddling program and invite the public to join the club for the summer program of canoeing, nature field trips and citizen science work; our natural history lecture series will resume in September after a summer break. Please visit for an events calendar and membership information.

All photos by Pauline Donaldson



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