Taking Flight

A new generation of Adirondack enthusiasts show their appreciation

Story by Adam Patterson
Photos courtesy of Wings

The young admirers of the Adirondack region now have a megaphone to voice their concerns, love, and admiration for the largest state park in the United States. Wings, a program established in cooperation with the Wild Center, a not-for-profit museum in the heart of the Adirondack Park, hopes to be the vessel with which the next generation of Adirondack enthusiasts can share their love for all things Adirondack.

Members and non-members alike mingle at Wings innaugural event in New York City.

The idea for the program began hundreds of miles away in the most urban of environments. Dave Bickford, one of the founders of Wings, also leads a junior advisory council, trying to target a young age group in an attempt to raise interest for the Museum of Natural History in New York City.

“It’s putting together people who have a common interest and passion of the Adirondacks.”

“I was looking for something along those lines in the Adirondacks,” Bickford says. “We wanted to give back and create a sense of community in this [21-40] age group.”

The name Wings, however, is credited to Susan Clifford, regional director of Development at the Wild Center. She said that when they were brainstorming names, the word “Wings” slipped out of her mouth. “It’s really just come to feel right for the concept… a feeling of moving forward,” she says.

The program in the Adirondacks is aimed specifically at a younger age demographic. “If we can get people who are exited in the early part of their lives, the chances of them staying interested are greatly increased,” says Ed Forbes, another co-founder of Wings.

Wings, a junior advisory council to the Wild Center, a group of individuals working to focus on a younger crowd, was modeled after the set-up by Bickford and his wife at the Museum of Natural History. Wings has tried to model its efforts on Bickford’s previous experiences.

"What we want to do at The Wild Center is make sure there’s a group of people outside of the Adirondacks that care about what happen here.”

Philanthropic efforts from members are made possible by their membership status. When someone wishes to join, they can choose to donate money in set amounts. “The entry level is $75 and only for members who are 21,” Bickford explains, noting that the prices are tiered with age in mind. Many 21-year-olds may not have much more money to give.

The membership money, once collected, is slated to be distributed annually to various efforts in the Adirondack State Park. A committee decides where the money goes. The Wild Center gives this committee recommendations about where the money could possibly go or where it is needed most, but the ultimate power to distribute the funds lies with the committee in Wings.

Members of the steering committee stand in front of the logo of their brainchild, Wings.

“It’s a donor-support group of the Wild Center,” Stephanie Ratcliffe, the executive director of the Wild Center explains of Wings. “But what we want to do at The Wild Center is make sure there’s a group of people outside of the Adirondacks that care about what happen here.”

Thriving off of the connection some people have with the Adirondack region is what makes Wings work.

“It’s putting together people who have a common interest and passion of the Adirondacks,” Ratcliffe says. “We felt that the generation Wings is trying to hit didn’t have it’s own set of group identity.”

“It was always remarkable to me that none of the cultural institutions in the Adirondacks had opportunities for young people to be recognized for contributing philanthropically,” Forbes says. “There’s certainly a social networking component.”

Though both Wings and The Wild Center are in their infancy, Forbes and Bickford agree that there are people with a very special bond with the Adirondack region. At its most basic function, they hope Wings will provide opportunities  for the next generation of Adirondack enthusiasts to network and keep them close to the region.

“We really love the Wild Center and wanted to do something—get us together, throw events, and at the end of the day, have money to give back,” Bickford explains.

How much do you love the Adirondacks?

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