Thanks to Yellowstone Park Foundation's Most Loyal Donors
Who are the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s donors? They live everywhere from Pittsburgh to Portland, Nashville to New York City and places in between; they may give $50 or thousands, but they all share a deep passion for Yellowstone.
A special group of our most loyal donors has invested in YPF’s mission for 10 consecutive years or more. We are in awe of the generosity of these 1,025 (and counting!) people who send gifts annually – and sometimes even monthly -- for trail upkeep, wolf collars, bear boxes, cutthroat trout restoration, and all of the essential projects that would go unfunded without such continuous support.
As a show of our gratitude, we’ve begun an annual tradition of selecting three donors to learn about their involvement with the Park and their inspiration for giving every year.
The Hannon Family of Elkhart, Indiana
Kyle Hannon first discovered Yellowstone in college, when he decided to work in the Park for the summer of 1984. That year led to two more summers of working in the Park and making friends with people from all over the world who also shared a love of America’s first national park. Of course when Kyle married, he brought his wife Shawn to Yellowstone for their honeymoon in 1988. “Fortunately, our trip was before the fires started, so we had a wonderful time,” Hannon says. Since then, they’ve brought Shawn’s parents to Yellowstone, and also made several trips with their two sons.
“Yellowstone is a special place for me and my family,” says Kyle, who recalls memories like hiking the Black Canyon and taking in a reflection of the Milky Way stretching across Yellowstone Lake at night. “It just seems natural to support YPF, so the Park is always there, always accessible. Maybe writing that annual check brings Yellowstone a little closer to Indiana.”
Sometimes a place imprints upon us in ways that not only compel us to share it with those closest to us, but also shows up in our work. For Kyle, a writer among other things, Yellowstone provided the setting for his first novel written in 2000, The Yellowstone Faithful.
Katherine Witney of Eau Claire, Wisconsin
“I first visited Yellowstone with my parents in 1958," says Katherine Witney.“ I inherited my love of our national parks from my dad, who made sure my brother and I saw all of them. I loved Yellowstone and vowed I would come again with my own children someday.”
Katherine made good on her vow, bringing her husband, parents and three children back to Yellowstone in 1983. She loves animals, so in April of 2000 “my husband Russ and I took our first wolf trip to the Park and have returned nearly every April since,” she says. “Russ passed away in 2011. He loved Yellowstone and became as big a wolf fan as I am.”
Spending so much time in the Park over the years, Katherine and Russ had many special experiences, including one day where they watched wolves from the Druid pack trying to get into the den of a coyote with pups, to no avail. “Later that day we watched mom and dad coyote move their pups, one at a time, to a new den that the female had dug…We watched for about two hours; that was thrilling to see.”
Despite Katherine’s loss of her husband, she’s continued her annual wolf-watching tradition by bringing her best friend to the Park last year, and is looking forward to her trip again this April. “I can’t wait. It’s always a highlight of my year,” she says.
The Haywards of Bozeman, Montana
Janne and Bill Hayward have donated to YPF since its inception in 1996, and every year thereafter. Their first trip to the Park was in 1989, but they became actively involved in 1993 when they participated in a two-year research project with Yellowstone Ecosystem Studies.
The Haywards decided to move to Bozeman in 1994, and took their first class at the Yellowstone Institute’s Buffalo Ranch in March 1995. “That was the weekend the gates were opened at the Rose Creek wolf enclosure,” Janne recalls. “It was so thrilling to be in Lamar when that happened! Of course, we were hooked.”
Today they spend many weekends working as volunteers in the Park. Janne recently wrote to YPF: “We care very much about the park and the retention of as much wildness as can be sustained while still affording public access. We support the Foundation and the projects you support – keep up the good work.”