Friends of Myakka River
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. Together, we're protecting and sharing Myakka's Magic, to the benefit of future generations, and our own.
FOMR was founded in 1994 by Dr. Mary Jelks, a prominent, well-loved Sarasota pediatrician and philanthropist, with a great passion for environmental conservation. With Dr. Mary (as she was affectionately known) at the helm, FOMR monitored the health of the Myakka River, and inspired other pillars of the community to join FOMR and adopt the preservation culture of the river through annual cleanups.
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.
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”. 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.
After 10 years of service to Friends of Myakka River as a board member, including, most recently, 5 years as president of the board, Miles Millwee has resigned from the organization's board of directors.
“We are extremely grateful for Miles's many contributions, and for the dedication, enthusiasm and countless hours he has given to the Friends, and the park, over the past 10 year.” noted Executive Director Miri Hardy. Most recently, largely thanks to his leadership, the organization has been successfully expanding their impact in the areas of outreach, community engagement and education.
“It has been my honor to serve on the board of directors of Friends of the Myakka River.” said Millwee. “Our organization is in a unique position to benefit the preservation of this amazing ecosystem that is right in our back yard” he added. “I am proud of all the work and passion that has contributed to making the Friends the successful organization that it is today, which will allow the organization to continue its important work in the future.”
Miles will be succeeded as president by Bob Frank, PhD, who joined the board in February.
“I am grateful to Miles for his superb leadership of the organization for so many years” remarked Frank. Reflecting on his role moving forward, he noted that “Myakka River State Park and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River are treasures that must be supported and protected both now and in the future.” Moreover, he pointed out that “There are real opportunities to grow the level of support the Friends provides and I look forward to continuing to work on programs that will help us share Myakka’s magic with more people more often.”
To learn more about Bob Frank, please see his Board of Directors PROFILE.
Friends of Myakka River recently participated in the 2022 Giving Challenge, presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, with giving strengthened by the Patterson Foundation. The nonprofit organization, which exists to support Myakka River State Park, and the Wild and Scenic Myakka River, fundraised to support their new Outreach and Environmental Program, which augments the park's offering through use of social media, print media and in-person programming.
Using the theme "Be the One to Share Myakka's Magic", the organization raised $28,178 during the 24-hr challenge, thanks to donations from 142 donors, matching funds from the Patterson Foundation, as well as two dedicated Friends of the Friends and prize money from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Due to their fundraising success, the non-profit was included in the top 20 Small Organizations Leaderboard.
"We are grateful to our members, volunteers, the community at large and our local philanthropists, whose incredible support helped make this fundraiser such a huge success" Executive Director Miri Hardy said. "We are thrilled by this resounding support for our new program, and look forward to continuing to increase the Friends of Myakka River's impact in the areas of outreach, community engagement and environmental education”.
For more information about the Friend of Myakka River new Outreach and Environmental Education Program, visit the Friends of Myakka River Giving Partner Profile or contact Miri Hardy.