Hundreds gathered Saturday to celebrate Hunt Hill Audubon Sanctuary and an enduring love of nature it inspires.
It was a special occasion, as the new Richard Grand Recreation Hall was dedicated, with special guest Marcia Grand.
Marcia said of her late husband, "Richard always felt that it is our duty as people to protect and help those less fortunate than us. He was not only talking about human beings, he's talking about plants and animals. Things become vulnerable, whether a tree or a butterfly, and it's our job to help them, and that's what we have to do, and Hunt Hill teaches that."
The Grands visited the camp only once in 1982, but the experience left such an impression that they remained major supporters through the years.
Richard Grand was a leading figure in wrongful death and injury lawsuits, pushing payment for victims in the millions. Since graduating from the University of Arizona's law school in 1958, Grand won his clients a settlement or verdict of more than $1 million apiece in more than 100 cases, accord ing to his obituary. He died in San Francisco in 2013 of natural causes.
Marcia said that in 1982, after a series of high-stress, high-profile cases, Richard was feeling burned out and needed to get away.
Ardent Audubon Society supporters, the Grands intended to go to a camp in Maine, but
changed the destination to Hunt Hill at the suggestion of a friend.
Marcia said they kept a low-profile during the visit and relished taking part in canoe building and other camp activities.
"I feel like I've never really left," she said. "The spirit that first brought us here and kept us involved is still here. That spirit is a palpable thing. You can feel it when you walk around the grounds and talk to people."
Former director Storme Nelson spoke of the Grands' longtime support, from buying a new lawn tractor for the camp to purchasing more acreage for the sanctuary.
Nelson and many other speakers became emotional in expressing their appreciation for Hunt Hill and its mission.
"The mission we seek is intensely local," said Friends of Hunt Hill president Bill Stewart. "We seek to provide environmental education, for children especially, but also adults and families— anyone who wants to gain an appreciation for nature just as it is right here."
He added, "It's a beautiful spot, but I think it's overlooked. It's not the mountains or the sea shore—it's a bog. But it's a wonderful spot, and we appreciate our friends."
Wisconsin Sen. Janet Bewley said, "There's no skimping the surface. It's as if Hunt Hill takes you over and you become part of it in an organic way. And I think that is the nature of your success."
"There are so many things that this organization does and you do it in such a beautiful and unique and generous way," said Bewley. "You should be very excited and very proud not only for what you do for Hunt Hill, but what Hunt Hill does for others of all ages."
Besides the recreation hall, the Grand donation has also went toward an improved access road, paved path and new maintenance shed.
Hunt Hill director Nikki Janisin also recognized local residents Dave and Carolyn Cleveland for their $1 million contribution, which was matched dollar for dollar by 750 more donors to provide an operating endowment for the sanctuary.
Janisin's challenge to the audience to raise their hands if they had either purchased a membership, volunteered or attended a program, showed that Hunt Hill has had widespread support.
She said the next year will be spent evaluating what limitations are still present at Hunt Hill, and then in 2020 its strategic plan will be updated.
Saturday's celebration included numerous family-friendly activities, including wildlife demos, bounce houses, face painting, games and more.
Hunt Hill is open to the public year-round during daylight hours. The sanctuary is located at N2384 Hunt Hill Road, Sarona.