For as long as I live, I will always associate Crater Lake National Park with rebirth. You see, in 2017, I suffered a brain aneurism that required surgery. As you can imagine, that took me out of commission for a little while — but I was determined to recover in time for a trip to Crater Lake with my friends.
That trip was such a powerful motivator in my healing process. Of course, I didn’t do any major hikes while I was there, but just getting there and seeing the tremendous natural beauty, felt like a conclusion to that chapter of my life and the beginning of a fresh start.
It’s just one of many meaningful park experiences I’ve had during my life. As a child, my parents always took us on a two-week vacation, and often to a national park. During high school, my family ventured west of the Mississippi on our first visit to the parks in the west. We went to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park and loved every minute. My special affinity for the Rocky Mountain region had begun!
It was during that trip that I developed a lifelong reverence for the national parks. Many years later, I still visit at least one new park each year. And I’m grateful that my 81-year-old father is able to join me sometimes — to experience the splendor and beauty of our country.
Now more than ever it is important to support our national parks. These beautiful places allow exploration in the fresh air while staying distanced. I volunteer at Indiana Dunes National Park, and while all park activities were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, the trails were still open. During a time that felt anything but normal, I found such a sense of comfort by being able to hike some of the trails I know best.
It is a pivotal time in our nation’s history. And as a higher education administrator, knowledge is my life’s calling. The historic places that preserve the legacies of Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and Booker T. Washington are important for all Americans to visit so that we can move forward as a nation. I am so glad that the National Park Foundation continues to fund the preservation of these important pieces of American history.
Because of my love for the parks, supporting the National Park Foundation has always been a priority. After my health issues, I did a lot of thinking about what matters to me. I decided that in addition to leaving money for my nieces and nephews, I wanted my legacy to be about preserving the parks. I have included the Foundation in my will so that people will continue to be able to connect with nature in our parks for generations to come. I want my nieces and nephews and other Americans to have a lifetime of enjoyment in the national parks, just as I have. That’s a legacy I can be proud of.