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As some of you may know, I took an extended vacation in Alaska this summer. While there I kept in touch with my crew, Jim Lovett and Ann Ryan, and though I kept up with some email communications, I let quite a bit slide and didn’t really keep up with Dplex-L (our email discussion list), our blog, our Facebook page, etc. My priorities were catching a few fish, staying away from the bears or any mother moose with babies, and kicking back. It had been a stressful spring with lots of worries about the possible demise of Monarch Watch due to the economic downturn and I was really worn down. I needed to get away from my 7-day-a-week routine and for me Alaska with its beauty and salmon-filled rivers is the place to do it.
All was going well – like the old Billie Holiday tune “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy/Fish are jumpin’…” – until I received a rather cryptic email from Jim on August 1st with the subject “Important Note from Jim & Ann”:
Chip: If you happen to see or hear something that you shouldn’t see or hear (you’ll know when you see or hear it), it would be best to play it as if you didn’t see or hear it. See what we’re saying here?
Boy, talk about a curious message. Wow!
Clearly, The Management was up to something but I didn’t know what. But, I really didn’t need a lot incentive to ignore emails and this message seemed to suggest I should pay even less attention than I had been to Dplex, etc. Eventually it became clear that some sort of fundraising effort was going on in the background but I didn’t know the details. It was also apparent that it had something to do with my birthday. That’s all I knew.
Fast forward to the end of August. Friday morning, my birthday, was normal in the lab and all the students and Jim & Ann were busy with the usual projects. However, I knew something was up when I returned from lunch to find the main room in the lab cleaned up a bit. Still nothing happened until Ann poked her head in my office at 4:15 and asked:
“What are you doing for the next 45 minutes?” “Answering emails I guess” was my response. “Good” said Ann. “Stay in your office. You can’t come out until we come and get you.” “Ok”, I said meekly.
So, I got busy with the unending stream of emails and waited for the knock on the door – which came nearly an hour later.
I walked out of my office and into a party – a surprise birthday party attended by many of my friends and local Monarch Watch supporters as well as Jim and Ann and the “Critter Crew” – our student support staff. Outstanding! There were lots of folks and great food in abundance! Jim set up a camera and the party was streamed live – I hope many of you got to see it. Jim also arranged for various people to connect with the party live via SKYPE video. The first to connect was my daughter Wendy and her two children, Jackson and Reesey, both of whom extended wonderful birthday greetings. We also connected with Carole Jordan, Jim Gagnon, and Janis Lentz – all long-time monarch supporters and with Paty Betancourt and her students from Piedras Negras (across the border in Mexico from Eagle Pass). Paty and her students, accompanied by a student in the ecology club on the guitar, sang “Las Mañanitas” (a traditional Mexican birthday song) to me. It was a great surprise and delight.
At some point candles were lit on a cake and I blew them out but I’m not sure whether this was before or after the biggest surprise of all. With some ceremony and finally with an explanation of what he and Ann had been up to with the “Chip in for Monarch Watch” campaign, Jim presented me with one of those big, sweepstakes-sized checks for over $15,000 – amazing!
I had expected a modest fundraising effort and outcome but I was floored by this amount. Jim told me there were over 300 contributors – 300 “Friends of Monarch Watch” who felt that what we did was worthwhile and worthy of their support. At this point I was doing my best to keep from getting choked up and I still am. The comments many of you made about how Monarch Watch has helped you connect with monarchs, plants, pollinators, and the community of great people who share your interest in monarchs has touched me deeply. I greatly appreciate your support and thoughtfulness – and your extraordinary commitment to monarch conservation.
If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to spend a little time reading through the comments and browsing the photos at monarchwatch.org/chip
I want to thank all of you who have contributed to this fund. With this support we will keep Monarch Watch going. It is gratifying to know that there are other people out there who care – no only about monarchs but about all in the world that sustains us. You are great, all of you – thank you, thank you.
My special thanks to Jim Lovett and Ann Ryan, who made all this happen, to Ina Warren for her useful suggestions and frequent nudges, and to everyone that brought food and drink to the party – Jackie, Dale, Rosemary, Larry, Margarete, Mary, Alicia, Ann, Sarah, and Emily.
[ NOTE FROM JIM: We've had a tremendous response to this campaign and continue to receive contributions and comments - the connections that are facilitated by monarchs and Monarch Watch are extraordinary - so we have extended it through the end of September to make sure everyone that wants to participate has the opportunity. If you have any questions about this please let me know. ]