Elachee Pivots to Virtual Fundraiser

This 20th annual fundraiser combines an online auction and raffle with a live-streaming, virtual event that supporters may enjoy from the comfort of their homes. The 2020 Flights of Fancy Virtual Benefit and Auction, presented by Northside Hospital

April 24, 2020 (Gainesville, Ga.) – Elachee Nature Science Center has virtual plan for its 20th annual fundraising event, the Flights of Fancy Benefit and Auction. The show will go on, online, from 6-7 p.m., Saturday, April 25. Elachee Trustee Phil Bonelli will host this virtual celebration at the Nature Center, presented by Northside Hospital. Proceeds support Elachee’s nature education and conservation initiatives in one of Georgia’s largest protected green spaces, the 1,440-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve. Artwork by Kailey Owens, age 14, Gainesville Middle School

“We originally chose April 25 for this milestone event to close out Elachee’s Earth Day week activities. In detouring from an in-person gathering at Elachee,” says Elachee’s Development Director Kim Marks, “we extend a virtual Flights’ invitation to everyone. I am personally delighted Phil Bonelli, with help from videos submitted by many of our sponsors, will share the magic of Elachee with an even broader audience!”

To join the Flights of Fancy virtual event, login 6 p.m., April 25 at https://zoom.us/j/93928858712 or https://www.facebook.com/Elachee/.

“Elachee is such an asset to the north Georgia region, enhancing quality of life,” Elachee Board of Trustees Chair Emily Bagwell comments. “Flights of Fancy is Elachee’s sole fundraiser each year. Because of the groundwork on this event that had been completed before the COVID-19 outbreak, the Elachee Board of Trustees fully supports holding the event, with a pivot to an online format, to honor the sponsors and auction donors’ contributions.” The Flights of Fancy 2020 auction, benefiting Elachee Nature Science Center, live through 9:30 p.m., April 25, 2020.

This beloved event has a reputation for offering a nature-inspired auction selection, curated by a volunteer host committee. Elachee’s Flights of Fancy 2020 virtual auction is now live via an online mobile bidding platform. To preview or bid, visit https://Flights20.givesmart.com using a digital device or participants can access the platform via smartphone by texting Flights20 to 76278.

Through this mobile bidding platform, users can bid on the eclectic selection of adventures, outdoor entertaining and garden whimsy, fine art and children’s packages. The Flights of Fancy silent auction closes at 9:30 p.m., April 25. Its five raffle opportunities will close at 6:30 p.m., during the live streaming broadcast.

“When approached last fall about emceeing the 20th annual Flights of Fancy Benefit and Auction, I was excited to be asked. What a fantastic event!” confides Elachee Trustee Phil Bonelli. “Once we shifted to planning a virtual event I thought, ‘This sounds like a lot of fun.’ I’m geared up and ready to bring in the dollars for Elachee!”

Flights of Fancy 2020 proceeds will ensure the continuation of important nature education and ecology programming for school children and nature lovers, as well as vital conservation projects along the 8-mile hiking trail system in Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve. Of note, these hiking trails have remained open and accessible to the pubic during the recent ‘shelter in place’ restrictions.

Meeting Community Demand through Fund the Need

Another long-standing Flights of Fancy tradition is presenting a Fund the Need Project at the event. On April 25, Elachee Nature Science Center hopes to raise $33,000 to enhance its outreach ability. Donations made to Fund the Need 2020 will aid the Elachee organization in serving individuals in the north Georgia region this fall and through next spring.

“Flights of Fancy provides donors the opportunity to support a growing outreach program that takes Elachee into schools and communities,” explains Elachee President and CEO Andrea Timpone. “We anticipate the demand to grow beyond our current capacity in the next year as schools face additional travel restrictions. Generous support of Fund the Need 2020 will build additional teaching resources to meet the anticipated critical demand.”

Elachee Registrar Kristin Love is continuously tracking data to identify emerging trends in service delivery. “Gone are the days that students in every grade level, in every school, attend multiple field trips, let alone one per year,” she reports. As a result, Elachee has seen demand for outreach programming steadily increase, year over year.

Some 40 percent of the 35,000 children and nature lovers who engage in meaningful nature education experiences each year with Elachee do so at schools and community centers throughout north Georgia and metro Atlanta, served by two Elachee outreach teams. Elachee seeks to deploy a third outreach team. This will enable instructors to take Elachee on the road to teach 21,000 children and lifelong learners through May 2021. This goal represents a 33 percent increase in outreach service capacity.

Elachee Director of Education Peter Gordon states, “Elachee’s outreach programs bring the plants, animals, water, soils of the Chicopee Woods, along with Georgia’s premier naturalist staff, to classrooms and lifelong learners all over the north Georgia region – students of any age who are unable to visit the Nature Center and Preserve. It’s the next best thing to walking the trails of the Chicopee Woods, hearing the song of a bird overhead or dipping a shoe into the cool waters of Walnut Creek.”

“Elachee instructors are welcome additions to a school campus or community center, bringing programming that’s new, fun and worthwhile,” Love shares.

Elachee equips its outreach teams with the ability to teach the Nature Center’s innovative programming on the road. This includes taking one of the Nature Center’s portable STARLAB planetariums for a “Seeing Stars” program, for example, or safely transporting an Elachee live animal ambassador, such as an Eastern King Snake, to bring to life to the “Exploring the Animal Kingdom” curriculum.

Invaluable Sponsor Support for Flights of Fancy

The Elachee organization is proud to introduce the sponsors who have rallied with the Elachee Board of Trustees, the Flights of Fancy 2020 volunteer host committee and Nature Center personnel to change course and help launch this virtual event. Special thanks to the 2020 Flights of Fancy Benefit and Auction annual sponsors and top event sponsors.

  • Elachee 2020 Annual Presenting Sponsor 
    Northside Hospital
  • Elachee 2020 Annual Silver Sponsors 
    Cargill, Inc., Chattahoochee Marketing Group, The McCormac Family Foundation, Tipton Construction Company
  • Elachee 2020 Annual Bronze Sponsors 
    Gainesville Flooring, Jackson EMC, Steve and Gale McKibbon, New Urban Forestry, Northeast Georgia Health System, PURE Springer Mountain Farms Fresh Chicken, Smith Gilliam Williams & Miles, Walters Management Company, Willis Investment Counsel
  • Flights of Fancy 2020 Oak Sponsors 
    George Abarr and Beth Bell/Dallas and Bobbie Gay/Jock and Joyce Hornor, Brand Properties, Chester Investments, Chestnut Mountain Logistics, Lanier Tent Rental/Encore Elite Events, Mar-Jac Poultry, Tom and Sally Oliver, Turner Wood & Smith Insurance Company
  • Flights of Fancy 2020 Dogwood Sponsors 
    Bart Patterson & Associates, bookitbox TRAVEL, Dominguez & Jones Wealth Management Group, Fockele Garden Company, Full Media, Gainesville Urology, Hayes Automotive-Gainesville, Left Nut Brewing Company, Pinnacle Bank, Stewart Melvin & Frost, University of North Georgia, Kelvin and Anu Whisenhunt
  • Flights of Fancy 2020 Maple Sponsors 
    Alexander Almand & Bangs, Bagwell Insurance Group, Beverly’s Ace Hardware, John and Judy Girardeau, Memorial Park Funeral Homes & Cemeteries, Pete and Martha Nesbitt, Peach State Bank & Trust, RMS Associates Inc., Rushton and Company, Lydia J. Sartain PC, Stonepoint LLC, Tracy Tesmer Design/Remodeling
  • Flights of Fancy 2020 Acorn Friends
    Affordable Trophies, BB&T, Brenau University, Gainesville Motorsports, Carole Gohman, Milton Martin Honda/Committee to Elect Butch Miller, Mincey Marble Manufacturing, James and Liz Murphy, Norton Aerial Photography, Brandi Paul, State Representative Matt Dubnik, Adam and Mandi Whiting

About Elachee Nature Science Center

Elachee Nature Science Center is nestled in one of Georgia’s largest protected green spaces, the 1,440-acre Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve. Since 1979, this premier SACS/AdvancED-accredited nature center and recreation destination has been instrumental in building environmental literacy for Georgians of all ages. Elachee serves 70,000 visitors annually through STEAM-based PreK-12 environmental education field trips and outreach programs, Camp Elachee summer day camps, natural history and live animal exhibits, public access to 8 miles of pristine hiking trails, and public life-long learning and seasonal nature-related programs. Elachee is responsible for land management of this north Georgia forest as its Trustee in perpetuity, under the authority of the Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission. Elachee collaborates with community partners and volunteer corps to build, maintain and ensure a sustainable legacy. This work provides ongoing maintenance of the Nature Preserve’s extensive hiking trail system. The Elachee campus is also home to Elachee Nature Academy, a State-licensed and accredited school offering nature-based Preschool and Kindergarten-1st Grade classes. Elachee is a private, independently operated 501(c)(3) organization with a mission to promote environmental understanding through education and conservation. Learn more at www.elachee.org.