21st Flights of Fancy

An Elachee Adventure

5-Year-Old’s Winning Bird House Among Eclectic Nature-Inspired Treasures at Elachee’s 21st Annual Flights of Fancy Benefit and Auction

November 1, 2021 (Gainesville, Ga.) – Elachee Nature Science Center ushered in the autumn season with its annual fundraiser, the Flights of Fancy Benefit & Auction. Originally slated as a spring event, Elachee’s Board of Trustees rescheduled this 21st annual gathering to October 23, 2021 so guests could celebrate in person. Featuring a nature-inspired auction and raffle, Elachee Nature Academy students and their families also participated by building bird houses to help raise money for the organization’s Fund the Need project.

Under a clear evening sky surrounded by the splendor of the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, Elachee friends and supporters came together to help raise over $122,000 for the Nature Center’s school and public education programming and conservation initiatives in 2022. Proceeds from the Flights of Fancy online auction and raffle combined with in-person donation appeals, activities and sponsorships for a very successful event to benefit children, nature lovers and the local environment.

“The key to our fundraising efforts through this event is to provide a fun, intimate event under the beautiful Chicopee Woods trees and we are so happy we were able to achieve that goal thanks to our wonderful sponsors and attendees who came out to support Elachee,” explains Elachee Trustee Mandi Whiting, also Volunteer Chair for the 2021 Flights of Fancy Benefit and Auction.

What has happened since Elachee’s last fundraising event, 18 months ago?

Programming at Elachee is alive and well as normal operations have resumed at the Nature Center. School buses loaded with children are eagerly visiting on field trips and for those unable to make the journey to this south Hall County resource, Teaching Naturalists travel to conduct Elachee in Your Classroom outreach programs throughout the region. Beloved public nature festivals and monthly Discovery Saturday programming have also resumed, as have adult learning courses. The popular Chicopee Woods hiking trail system continues to see increased foot traffic as individuals and families seek quality outdoor experiences as the Covid-19 pandemic wanes.

Of the total amount raised at Flights of Fancy 2021, nearly $26,000 was donated toward a $55,000 goal to install new outdoor, interactive exhibits on the Nature Center campus to enhance the Elachee visitor experience. Elachee Nature Science Center is an urban woodland refuge, outdoor classroom and exhibit center designed to involve and engage every age. This enhanced public visitor experience will support school programming and be accessible 365 days of the year for children, families and nature lovers. Elachee seeks community input through a short survey, https://bit.ly/3GDxzkZ.

Young students enrolled in Elachee Nature Academy Preschool-3rd Grade classes raised $1,480 of these Fund the Need donations thanks to their creative efforts. Ten students and their families built unique bird houses that the public voted on with a per vote donation. The winning entry, Elachee Adventures, garnered the most votes. Five-year-old Rachel Bagwell and her family designed and together built a delightful camper home for a lucky bird!

Voted Best of Hall 2021 Non-Profit Event by the readers of The Gainesville Times, the 2021 Flights of Fancy’s entertainment was a series of crowd-participation games. Good sports stepped up and their companions supported their efforts through cheers and with their wallets. Guests enjoyed a farm-to-table dinner on the Elachee patio which boasts an incomparable view of the Chicopee Woods. All in all, this lively event was a great way to break the ice after so many, many months of forced distancing.

Elachee Board of Trustees’ Chair Emily Bagwell shared, “I was particularly impressed with the updated format, which allowed for more interaction between the attendees – a perfect way to celebrate our return to gathering in person. Many volunteers and the entire Elachee staff pulled off a wonderful event. I appreciated the opportunity to publicly recognize Andrea Timpone for her service and welcome Sarah Bell as Elachee’s new Executive Director.”

“My first Flights of Fancy was a night to remember! I am so thankful for all the hard work that went into the evening, and I am especially grateful to everyone who participated, in person and virtually,” commented Sarah Bell, Elachee’s President and CEO. “The funds raised will help us continue to welcome the public back to Elachee as we all enjoy getting out and being together. We are thrilled to have the support of our community as we continue to develop Elachee’s next season.”

The 2021 Flights of Fancy Benefit and Auction was made possible thanks to the generous support of an incredible group of sponsors, retailers and artisans in the community and throughout the southeastern U.S., as well as a dedicated volunteer host committee.

Members of the Flights21 Volunteer Host Committee were Mandi Whiting, Chair, Dawn-Marie Bernhard, Rachel Greenwalt, Katie Nordholz, Brandi Paul and Holly Reynolds.

Following are the 2021 sponsors:

Presenting Annual Platinum Sponsor: Northside Hospital

Annual Silver Sponsor: New Urban Forestry

Annual Bronze Sponsors: Cargill, Inc., Chattahoochee Marketing Group, McCormac Family Foundation, Northeast Georgia Health System, Springer Mountain Farms, Tipton Construction Company

Annual Copper Sponsors: Jackson EMC, Smith Gilliam Williams & Miles PA, Walters Management Company, Willis Investment Counsel

Flights21 Oak Sponsors: Beth Bell/Dallas and Bobbie Gay/Jock and Joyce Hornor, Brand Properties, Chestnut Mountain Logistics, Downtown Drafts, Encore Elite Events/Lanier Tent Rental, Gainesville Flooring, Mar-Jac Poultry, Inc., Tom and Sally Oliver, Turner Wood & Smith Insurance Company

Flights21 Dogwood Sponsors:  Bart Patterson & Associates, City Garden Supply, Fockele Garden Company, Full Media, Jason P. Greenwalt Construction Corp., Stewart Melvin & Frost LLP, Stonepoint LLC, Kelvin and Anu Whisenhunt

Flights21 Maple Sponsors: Emily Bagwell and Ben Kastner, Beverly Ace Hardware, bookitboxTravel, John and Judy Girardeau, Left Nut Brewing, Morton Vardeman & Carlson, Pete and Martha Nesbitt, Pinnacle Bank, Rushton & Company, University of North Georgia

Flights21 Acorn Sponsors: Affordable Trophies, Chicopee Woods Golf Course, FlowerBuds, Carole Gohman, Hoschton Animal Hospital, Mincey Marble Company, Brandi Paul, Ryan Fogg and Sylwester Ratowt, Sweet Home Georgia Realty, The Reynolds Team/Keller Williams Realty Atlanta Partners, Al and Mary Beth Trembley, Adam and Mandi Whiting

The 21st Annual Flights of Fancy event proceeds will support Elachee’s mission, in 2022, by providing school children access to nature and by aiding conservation initiatives in the 1,440-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve. This south Hall County urban wilderness is one of Georgia’s largest protected and most ecologically diverse greenspaces. Support also will help Elachee, its volunteer corps and community partners maintain the 8-mile hiking trail system open daily to the visiting public.

Elachee Nature Science Center is a private, independently owned and operated 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. For more than four decades, this premier nature center has been instrumental in promoting environmental understanding through education and conservation. Elachee relies on earned income, donations, grant awards, sponsorships and proceeds from the annual Flights of Fancy Benefit and Auction to fund operations. Learn more at www.elachee.org.