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How would you like to win a half-day fishing excursion with Olympic Snowboarder Scotty Lago? Or maybe a moonlight kayak trip on Parker River with an experienced guide?

You might just score one of those while helping more kids explore nature at Merrohawke Nature School’s Annual Fundraising Auction Benefit on April 27. Founded as BOAT CAMP in 2007 by Rob and Kate Yeomans, Merrohawke has grown to serve 3,500 children annually, with programs ranging from outdoor kindergarten – one of the few in New England – to year-round offerings to keep people of all ages in touch with nature. 

It’s important work, says Thomas Murray, President of the board at Merrohawke. “There are many children who may never explore the woods, feel the texture of tree bark, pull up a lobster trap or sit quietly listening for the sounds life around them,” he says. “Those opportunities should be provided to all and we can’t just leave it to chance.” 

A third of Merrohawke’s funding comes from philanthropy. In 2018, donors provided $39,500 in full and partial scholarship support for students.

“Our annual fundraising auction is the backbone of our scholarship program,” says Murray. “Without the generous support of guests and sponsors, Merrohawke could not provide as many scholarships as we do.”

In fact, Merrohawke has never turned away a single child because of need in its 12-year history, and the support goes beyond assisting individual families. Murray says even full tuition-paying families only cover 60 to 70 percent of the cost of Merrohawke’s programs, with the rest made up by philanthropic support, in order to keep fees as low as possible. The organization requires highly trained staff and a low staff to student ratio – sometimes a low as one to four– to guide learning that grows empathy, grit, and a deep connection to the earth. 

“Experience is the best teacher and the outdoors is a great classroom,” Murray says. “Merrohawke marries these together and provides for amazing learning opportunities that build character, resiliency, and appreciation for the world around us. I want to ensure that these opportunities remain strong for many kids to come.”

This year’s fundraiser will be held at Alnoba in Kensington, NH, a gathering center dedicated to sustainability and social responsibility. The event will feature a locally-sourced feast catered by the Farm at Eastman’s Corner, including mini Beef Wellingtons and slow-roasted prime rib. And professional auctioneer Kathy Kingston promises to keep the event fun, engaging, and informative, while offering up the aforementioned experiences and many others. 

Mark and Teresa Richey, of Mark Richey Woodworking, will be honored at the event, as recipients of the 2019 Strong By Nature Award, which recognizes members of the community who act with the earth-minded integrity that Merrohawke hopes all children will express as adults. 

“Teresa and Mark are exemplary leaders who recognize the gifts that nature provides, and incorporate sustainable practices into their business and community outreach,” Murray says. “They are great role models.”

 Sponsors of this year’s dinner and auction include Newburyport Savings Bank, Newburyport Dental Associates, Matter Communications, Bennett and Co., Colden & Seymour ENT and Allergy, Blanchette Financial Group and Institution for Savings. 

Ticket prices start at $100 and are available here.