I am overjoyed to announce that the Hamill Family Foundation has shown an unprecedented commitment to the preservation of our region's natural resources and heritage through a $1.5 million to gift to The Conservation Foundation.
Receiving this news was one of the most exhilarating moments of my career. In my mind’s eye I can see the impact this exceedingly generous gift will have on the communities we serve through the conservation initiatives it will allow us to plan and execute. At the center of these programs will be continued focus on the Fox River.
This generous gift from the children of Joan and Corwith "Corky" Hamill – Nancy Hamill Winter, of Stockton, Illinois; Elizabeth Bramsen, and Jonathan Hamill, both of Barrington — affirms their parents' legacy of protecting wilderness areas and promoting stewardship of the environment. I had the pleasure of accompanying Betsy and Nancy, pictured with me here, on a canoe trip and tour of the Dayton Bluffs Preserve this past summer. I was honored by the interest they both showed in both the property and the mission and plans of The Conservation Foundation. I cannot begin to articulate what it means to have them commit to that mission in the way they have through this gift.
The donation is spread over three years through 2016 and is helping to support The Conservation Foundation's overall goals and mission, with specific emphasis on community education and outreach in the Fox River watershed. In addition, the Joan and Corwith Hamill Family Fox River Land Fund will be created to support land acquisition in the Fox River Valley, where the Hamill children spent much of their childhood.
The Hamill Foundation gift does come with a challenge. We will need to raise an additional $250,000 of support in order to get the final $500,000 of their donation. This is a challenge that I am very excited about. I am confident that their donation will act as seed money for us to show others how important it is to steward our land and water resources. With this gift, we will continue to work tirelessly to make conservation a core value in our communities. We will focus on increased breadth and depth of our program deliveries at the community level. We will expand our efforts to preserve land along the Fox River. All this will be made much more attainable by the support of the Hamill family.
I only wish was Corky was still here so I could thank him personally. We will work hard to show the Hamill family that their investment in The Conservation Foundation is something that would have made Corky and Joan proud. I look forward to our future, one that is looking very bright because of the support of generous friends like Nancy, Betsy and Jonathan. We can’t thank them enough.
~Brook McDonald, President/CEO
More About Extraordinary Hamill Family
Corwith "Corky" Hamill died in 2013 at the age of 99. He grew up in Lake Forest and lived in Wayne on property he originally bought in 1941 for $500 an acre. He was known for his strong passion for nature and conservation and served as president of the Chicago Zoological Society.
Corky donated a 9-acre conservation easement to The Conservation Foundation in 1998. The easement includes a portion of Norris Creek which flows into the Fox River. The three children grew up on this wooded property and learned to love nature like their parents.
Joan Birnie Smith Hamill died in 2001 at the age of 84. She is known as having been a driving force in the creation of the Illinois Prairie Path, an old railroad line that is now a 61-mile trail from Maywood out to Aurora and Elgin. She grew up in Chicago and was an accomplished horsewoman who continued riding into her 80s. She was an instructor and coordinator with the Wayne DuPage Hunt Pony Club.