Friends of Myakka River
We are pleased to announce the appointment of two new members to the Friends of Myakka River Board of Directors. Their appointments reflect the board's continued commitment to growing Friends of Myakka River's impact in our community, while increasing our financial support of Myakka River State Park.
Sandy Plette (Treasurer):
Having retired to Florida from Maine, where she and her husband Andre’ (who also volunteers in the Park) continue to spend their summer months, Sandy Plette’s professional career included tenures as an insurance company executive specializing in investments and finance as well as a practice administrator for a group of physicians. In addition, she served in various positions on several boards of directors for charitable organizations in Maine.
Her passions for both being in nature and of service to others led Sandy to support various visitor service and administrative roles within Myakka River State Park over the past 5 years. A lifetime member of Friends of Myakka River, she also served as a valued advisor to our Board of Directors.
“Sandy’s deep understanding of both the Park and our organization, as well as her keen financial insights, have greatly benefited Friends of Myakka River over the past few years” said Bob Frank, President of Friends of Myakka River. “As we continue to grow our fundraising efforts in support of the Park, Sandy’s new leadership role as an officer of our organization will greatly benefit of our beloved Myakka.”
At Myakka River State Park, Sandy enjoys walking the trails, gazing at the alligators and birds, encountering occasional deer along her way and myriad sights, sounds, and smells of nature. She looks forward to supporting our efforts to wisely deploy the funds with which our donors entrust us.
Stacey Mazza- Gilkison (Board Member):
A Sarasota native, Stacey Mazza-Gilkison has been visiting Myakka River State Park for over 47 years. She fondly recalls visiting the park as a child with her oldest sister on a school project, observing and documenting the foraging habits of ibises and egrets. Stacey and her husband Mike became members in 2021 at our inaugural Bike Myakka event. They live and operate a small business in Myakka City, where they also foster senior dogs and add them to their growing dachshund pack.
Driven by her strong desire to preserve our park while helping others understand the importance of protecting our fragile environment, Stacey, who is an avid animal rights activist, has actively supported our new Outreach and Environmental Education Program since its inception. As a board member, she strives to further advance our strategic priorities, especially as they relate to direct partnerships with our community at large.
“Stacey’s enthusiastic support of our new initiatives has greatly enhanced our organization’s impact and growth over the past two years” noted Bob Frank, President of Friends of Myakka River. “We are thrilled to add her energy, creativity, idealism and local and environmental insights to our board, and look forward to working together to continue to protect and share Myakka’s Magic”.
In her spare time, Stacey enjoys running & biking, volunteering for various environmental & animal rights organizations, being out in nature, and relaxing with her husband and their dogs.
Want to Help us Protect and Share Myakka's Magic? Join us as a Board Member!
Becoming a member of the Friends of Myakka River’s Board of Directors can be a rewarding, high impact way to get involved with a community of like-minded individuals, who are helping support and grow one of Florida's oldest, and largest state parks.
It is also a meaningful way to apply your passion for Wild Florida, experience and expertise to help the Friends advance our mission to support Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River.
Please contact Miri Hardy.
Friends of Myakka River recently purchased two storage containers for Myakka River State Park to support resource management needs. The non-profit organization, which exists to support the park, and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River, then covered the costs of supplies needed to paint the containers, as well as two others recently acquired by the park, and also a number of additional upgrades that will increase their safety, sustainability and usability.
And, thanks to 13 dedicated and hard working members, Friends of Myakka River provided the workforce needed to paint these essential storage solutions in what was a fun, fulfilling and very satisfying service project!
Watch the video below to see images from our recent Friends of Myakka River Container Painting Service Project. And if you're interested in being notified about future “Members Only” volunteer opportunities to support Myakka River State Park, please email Miri Hardy.
Not a member yet? Join us HERE.
Myakka River State Park is a well-loved local natural gem. To help our community better understand the increasing challenges its fragile ecosystems face, Friends of Myakka River, a local non-profit organization that supports the park, recently expanded its outreach and education efforts. “We were inspired by Sir David Attenborough, who noted that ‘no one will protect what they don’t care about and no one will care about what they’ve never experienced',” said Executive Director Miri Hardy, who joined the non-profit citizen support organization last year. “So we started actively sharing Myakka’s Magic.”
The organization leveraged social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, and created a monthly print feature called “Wild Florida”, which addresses important environmental topics in a colloquial manner. They also launched an award-winning service program called Bike Myakka for Good, which offers the community an opportunity to give back to the park while learning about Myakka's natural communities and history in the friendly company of like-minded individuals.
Under Hardy’s leadership, the new programming has allowed hundreds of thousands to personally experience Myakka while increasing their commitment to protecting this environmentally significant place. And, as most individuals were experiencing Myakka’s Magic remotely, potential negative impact on Myakka’s sensitive ecosystems was minimized by design. The organization has substantially increased financial support for the park's conservation mission while growing its membership.
Thanks to capacity building support from Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, the nonprofit will be able to further increase its education efforts, outreach, and impact by retaining Hardy as its first full-time executive director. “I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity, which will allow us to continue to reach our community through our new Protecting and Sharing Myakka’s Magic roadshow, and create additional programs that will build meaningful and lasting connections with our beloved Myakka, to the benefit of this important natural resource, and our own.” said Hardy.
“Friends of Myakka River is strongly committed to preserving this rich piece of our local ecosystem and Sarasota County history,” commented Barancik President | CEO Teri A Hansen. “We are excited to see how the organization grows and continues to be strengthened through Dr. Hardy’s leadership as the nonprofit’s first full-time Executive Director.”
“Building on the superb foundation created by our Executive Director Miri Hardy, we look forward to growing our educational impact,” said President Bob Frank. “And we’re thrilled to be able to better serve Myakka River State Park by having the capacity to raise funds for upcoming capital projects that will enhance our community’s enjoyment and appreciation of Myakka. The next several years will be very exciting!”.
For more information about Friends of Myakka River, click HERE and for more details about scheduling a roadshow speaking engagement at your interest club, faith-based organization or community meeting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends of Myakka River's award winning new program, Bike Myakka for Good, supports Myakka River State Park through service projects, environmental education and outreach. Photo: Miri Hardy
Friends of Myakka River is one of 10 Florida State Parks Citizen Support Organizations (CSOs or “Friends” groups) selected to receive the Florida State Parks Foundation’s small grant award for 2023. The $5,000 grant will fund two cargo bikes that will support the organization's impactful “Bike Myakka for Good” program.
The Foundation each year allocates $50,000 to its small grants program, which awards $5,000 to CSOs or parks without a CSO to advocate for their affiliated state parks and provide direct park operations assistance. The grants are used to enhance visitor experiences, accessibility features and park improvement efforts.
"Since the program’s inception, we’ve been making efforts to further increase Bike Myakka for Good's sustainability. " Said Executive Director Miri Hardy, PhD. "And thanks to the generous support of Florida State Parks Foundation, we're looking forward to Going Even Greener at Myakka River State Park with our new Bike Myakka for Good Cargo Bikes, which will replace two fossil fuel-based vehicles "
“We congratulate Friends of Myakka River for being a 2023 small grants award recipient,” said Tammy Gustafson, president of the Florida State Parks Foundation. “Our small grants program has funded a wide array of projects that make a positive impact at dozens of state parks and helped to ensure the continued award-winning experiences visitors know and love at Florida State Parks.”
The Florida State Parks Foundation, founded in 1993 as Friends of Florida State Parks and renamed in 2018, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation whose mission is to support and help sustain the Florida Park Service, its 175 award-winning parks and trails, local Friends groups and more than 20,000 park volunteers.
It does this through programs that preserve and protect state parks, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage community engagement and active use of state parks, and advocacy. These grants are through the Florida State Parks Foundation Services LLC, which is a limited liability company affiliate of the Foundation.
The Friends of Myakka River (FOMR) is a non-profit organization that exists to support Myakka River State Park, and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River.
FOMR was founded in 1994 by Dr. Mary Jelks, a prominent, well-loved Sarasota pediatrician and philanthropist, with a great passion for environmental conservation. As a Citizen Support Organization for Myakka River State Park, FOMR continues to work in partnership with the Florida Park Service staff, providing financial support for crucial initiatives and infrastructure, as well as augmenting the park's environmental education programming and community outreach. Together, we're protecting and sharing Myakka's Magic, to the benefit of future generations, and our own.
As part of the organization’s new Outreach and Environmental Education Program, Friends of Myakka River, a non-profit organization that exists to support Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River, recently introduced a community “roadshow” named Protecting and Sharing Myakka's Magic. Using evocative photographs and storytelling, these presentations highlight one of our area's most popular parks and help our community better understand its fragile ecosystem.
Executive Director Miri Hardy launched the roadshow at the March General Meeting of the Sarasota Garden Club, in front of an engaged audience of 50 members and guests. “By meaningfully sharing Myakka’s Magic with our community, we aim to raise awareness about important conservation and restoration efforts at Myakka River State Park, while also helping our Sarasota community understand why this work matters.” she said. “Such outreach is especially important with projects like the ongoing floodplain marsh habitat restoration, where public support and buy-in can directly impact project success.”
To invite Friends of Myakka River to speak at your interest club, faith-based organization or community meeting, please contact Miri Hardy.
Photo by Carol Lackey
Friends of Myakka River recently received a 2022 Citizen Support Organization of the Year award from the Florida Park Service and Florida State Parks Foundation for their new program Bike Myakka for Good.
The organization designed Bike Myakka for Good to encourage biking at Myakka as a sustainable (and low impact) mode of transportation, while also supporting Myakka and our region’s natural resources by removing invasive plants or otherwise supporting Myakka River State Park. The program also supports the park through education and outreach. And importantly, through this program, Friends of Myakka River has been successfully building a sustainable membership-based volunteer corps to support its own initiatives, and growing as an organization.
“We designed Bike Myakka for Good to offer our community an opportunity to give back to this beautiful place, while learning a bit more about Myakka's delicate ecosystems and history in the friendly company of like-minded individuals.” said Executive Director, Miri Hardy. “We’re thrilled by the positive response to this program this past year and are honored to have its significant impact recognized by our Florida Park Service and Florida State Park Foundation colleagues”.
Since the program’s inception, Friends of Myakka River has been making efforts to further increase its sustainability. For example, to minimize use of plastic bags, they procured reusable bags, made from upcycled feed bags.
To further grow the program and its sustainability, the organization is currently pursuing funding for two cargo bikes, which would be used to transport tools and supplies for the service projects, thus further reducing dependence on motor vehicles. The cargo bikes will minimize wear and tear on Myakka’s infrastructure and park owned vehicles, reduce fuel usage and emissions, and will save valuable staff time.
To register for an upcoming Bike Myakka for Good Service Ride, see EVENTS or contact Miri Hardy.
(L-R) Friends of Myakka River Assistant Treasurer Sandra Bernardi, Executive Director Miri Hardy, Vice President Steven Schaefer, Treasurer Sandy Plette and President Bob Frank celebrating Bike Myakka for Good's Success.
Photo: Jean Blackburn
Friends of Myakka River recently announced their four priority initiatives for 2023, which reflect the organization's strategic programming and fundraising focus for the year.
"Working in partnership with park management and staff, we identified initiatives that truly reflect our mission to protect and share Myakka's Magic." said Friends of Myakka River President Bob Frank. "By focusing both our fundraising and communications on these initiatives, we're excited to get to work to help substantially and meaningfully support Myakka River State Park, and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River this year".
To support or learn more about these initiatives, please contact the organization's Executive Director, Miri Hardy.
Friends of Myakka River recently received $1,500 in grant funds from Adventure Cycling Association and The National Environmental Education Foundation. The funds will be used to support the organization's Bike Myakka! initiative, and the upcoming National Public Lands Day / Bike Your Park Day event Bike Myakka! for Biodiversity. This event will take place at Myakka River State Park on September 24, 2022, in partnership with Myakka River State Park staff .
“We are thrilled to support Friends of Myakka River and Bike Myakka!” said Carmen Aiken, of Adventure Cycling Association. “Their ability to share such a beautiful natural resource and the joy of biking with their community through incredible events while promoting stewardship via bicycle is something we hope inspires people across the bike community”.
Read about last year's award-winning Bike Myakka! for Biodiversity event in a current feature on Adventure Cycling's website HERE.
We are pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to the Friends of Myakka River Board of Directors. Their appointments reflect the board's continued commitment to growing Friends of Myakka River's impact in our community, and to our new Outreach and Environmental Education Program.
Dr. Helen Jelks King, the daughter of Friends founder Dr. Mary Jelks, and longtime Friends of Myakka River member, is recently retired from her optometry practice in Sarasota. She has a long and significant personal history with Myakka River State Park and the Myakka River, and is excited to forge a path for the future of the park that will benefit people and nature alike.
Tracey Long Beeker brings her impressive background in communication and public relations to the Friends along with her passion for the Myakka River State Park. She has significant experience helping non-profit organizations improve their fund-raising activities, strategic planning and community impact.
Jeannie Hendrick Perales is a 4th generation Floridian who is committed to protecting Wild Florida in general and Myakka River State Park in particular. Her strong connections to the local non-profit community experience building meaningful community outreach programs will be invaluable as we explore future opportunities to serve the needs of the park, our community and our members.
To learn more about our new board members, please see their profiles HERE.
Friends of Myakka River are extremely pleased to report that before, during and after the 2022 Giving Challenge, we won $11,100 in awards, including the coveted First Place for Best Overall Campaign - A $5,000 prize!
Our 2022 Giving Challenge Video Commercial, highlighting our new Outreach and Environmental Education Program was one of 10 selected from over 40 applicants as a recipient of a $1,500 Best Video Commercial Prize.
We also won $2,000 prizes for Best Giving Challenge Turnaround, awarded to the organization with the best turnaround performance from the 2020 Giving Challenge, and a prize for Best Use of Social Media. And thanks to our online voters, our Giving Challenge Photo submission (pictured below), which used evocative photos from our social media campaign, and screen captures from our video commercial to illustrate how we Share Myakka's Magic through our new Outreach and Environmental Program, was one of 20 to receive the most public votes, and a $500 for Best Giving Challenge Photo!
"We are extremely grateful to our members, volunteers, the community at large and our local philanthropists, whose incredible support helped make this fundraiser such a huge success!" said Miri Hardy, PhD, Executive Director, "And we are thrilled by this resounding support for our new program."
The award monies bring our 2022 Giving Challenge fundraiser total to over $38,000. And, thanks to these funds, we look forward to continuing to increase the Friends of Myakka River's impact in the areas of outreach, community engagement and environmental education moving forward! And if YOU would like to get involved in our new program, we'd love to hear from you.
For more information about our new Outreach and Environmental Education Program, visit our Giving Partner Profile or contact Miri Hardy.