After completing its Children’s Rainforest Garden in November, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens was looking for opportunities to bring more children to its grounds. In early summer, when children and families would be more available for visits, the organization partnered with Girls Inc. to offer 20 free, yearlong memberships to its families.
“Everybody deserves that opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and learn more about the natural environment,” says Grace Carlson, director of communications at Selby. “We thought it would be smart to partner with an organization where we could offer memberships to families who might not normally have that opportunity.”
Girls Inc. selected a group of its families with financial needs and entered them into a random drawing before announcing the winners.
“It was a big surprise,” says Ivonne Padilla, one of the winners. “We didn’t even know about Selby Gardens before. It’s a beautiful place, and I really like nature, so I want my kids to be able to see all the different kinds of plants and wildlife. This place has a lot to offer, and we’re going to take our time to enjoy each part of it.”
Kay Mathers, director of community relations at Girls Inc., says the partnership is a perfect extension of the organization’s mission to empower girls and help them explore their environments. She hopes the winning families will enjoy the natural beauty Sarasota has to offer.
“You don’t have to go to a big amusement park to find entertainment,” says Mathers. “Children really do enjoy the sound of a waterfall and watching a butterfly in the sky. I hope our families take away that coming to the gardens and enjoying nature really is fulfilling for a lot of kids. That’s how most of us grew up — playing outside in a safe environment, and that’s what Selby really is.”
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