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Sprankle decoy exhibit raises $100,000-plus for Refuge Children’s Education Boardwalk

By Staff | Jun 1, 2011

Doris Hardy and Chauncey with the four Sprankle decoys she sponsored.

Of the 45 duck decoys world-renowned bird sculptor Jim Sprankle has displayed at the “Ding” Darling Education Center, 42 have been “adopted” by sponsors who contributed $2,500 to have a plaque bearing their names or memorializing loved ones exhibited along with their chosen duck.

The sum total of the sponsorships and other donations received as a result of the fundraiser amounts to already more than $100,000 — funds that will go toward the building of the Children’s Education Boardwalk between the refuge’s Indigo Trail and The Sanibel School.

“This was such a great opportunity to honor my grandmother, mother, and father – and even my little dog Chauncey — while contributing to a cause near to my heart – education,” said Doris Hardy, who sponsored four ducks.

“The contributions made by the Sprankle family over the years go well beyond what Jim was able to raise for this important project,” said Birgie Vertesch, executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS).

“The generosity of the individual sponsors is amazing and will go a long way to making this boardwalk possible,” she added. “The value of Jim’s collection alone exceeds $400,000. When you start to consider all the carvings Jim has contributed to the Education Center and other Society fundraisers and all the hours he has volunteered as a former board member, president, and beyond, it’s doubly amazing.”

The Sprankle family with Jim’s decoy exhibit in the “Ding” Darling NWR Education Center.

The education boardwalk will cross a brackish wetland currently inaccessible to the public, giving school children and visitors up-close views of alligators, wading birds, and more. It will meander through mangroves with educational displays along the way and expand into an in-the-round venue to accommodate up to 25 students and other groups.

“The Sprankle fundraiser gave this important project its biggest boost yet,” said Vertesch.

Other major donors to the project include the Sanibel Captiva Trust Company, the estate of Syril Rubin, the Win Kloosterman Memorial Fund, and the George & Miriam Martin Foundation Challenge Grant, which is currently seeking matching donations to reach the final goal.

As a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, DDWS works to support J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge’s mission of conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, research, and public education through charitable donations and Refuge Nature Shop proceeds.

To support DDWS and the refuge with a tax-deductible gift, visit www.dingdarlingsociety.org or contact Birgie Vertesch at 239-292-0566, 472-1100 ext. 4, or send an e-mail to director@dingdarlingsociety.org.