Friends of the Arboretum April 2019 Newsletter

Chair’s Corner

We Need Your Help to Get to the Finish Line!
Excitement is building at the Arboretum as the pieces are falling into place for our new Visitor Center! We’re hopeful that groundbreaking can take place before the end of 2019 with the goal of a fully-functioning building in 2021.

As of this writing, we’re still in need of just less than $3 million in order to meet our goal of $12,375,000. That amount includes not only the building of the Visitor Center but also Phase 1 of the new Sculpture Garden which includes an amphitheater for 800 to 1,000 guests.

The Visitor Center will provide that all-important first impression for guests, and will serve as the gateway to both the botanical gardens and the Sculpture Garden (on the west side of the current gardens). It will provide event “celebration” spaces including a water-side terrace, along with meeting rooms, classrooms, an expanded cafe, gift shop, and administrative offices. To see a video “fly through” of the design, click HERE.

It’s been a long process to get to this point. The Visitor Center was part of the Arboretum Master Plan design done back in 2006 and updated in 2013 to include a more in depth addition of the Sculpture Garden. A fundraising feasibility study was done in 2015, with surveys and many conversations with constituents and interested parties (maybe you were part of those discussions?). The capital campaign called Growing to Inspire was launched in 2015. The breakdown of donations so far is listed below and includes the most recent gift – a generous contribution from the John & Elizabeth Lauritzen Foundation by Blair Lauritzen Gogel and Matt Gogel of $100,000:

$3,000,000 – Lead Gift
$1,000,000 – Sunderland Foundation
$1,000,000 – FOTA fundraising projects
$500,000 – Seed money gift
$1,061,000 – Gifts of $50K or more
$436,000 – Gifts $5,000 – $30,000
$115,418 – Other gifts
$2,375,000 – City contribution
$9,487,418 – Total received or pledged to-date

If you’ve visited our current visitor center, you know how much we need this new building. As the Arboretum has grown, so have the number of events and activities. The new Visitor Center will elevate the experience for guests while providing much needed space for weddings, meetings, family reunions, and other community events.

Please consider what you can do to make this dream come to life! Every gift – no matter what your capacity to give – will bring us closer to these magnificent additions to the Arboretum and the experiences they will provide.

For more information about donations and naming opportunities, visit or contact Vicki Lilly, ARFOP Executive Director, at or 913.322.6467.

Sonya Wright
Chair, Friends of the Arboretum

Volunteer Spotlight

Every year during the month of April, we celebrate National Volunteer Week. Established by Presidential Proclamation in 1974, it allows for the opportunity to thank the thousands of volunteers across the country who keep many organizations running, communities safe and provide the services that otherwise would not exist without volunteers.

At the Arboretum, we are fortunate to have a dedicated group of volunteers that help out on a consistent basis. These volunteers, answer phones, give tours, pull weeds, lead field trips, run trains, feed birds, teach classes…and much more. With so much going, it is impossible for staff alone to maintain and operate the Arboretum. It takes many people working together to keep the place running. Our faithful volunteers are crucial to our day to day operations.

We are also fortunate to have a variety of groups throughout the year that choose the Arboretum for their volunteer service. Whether it be individuals from local businesses, students from area schools or corporate employees, we can usually accommodate a large group. With a little planning, we are able to lineup tasks appropriate for these larger groups. For many eligible 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, some companies will give their employees paid time off to volunteer, others contribute money to eligible organizations.  Student groups often need to fulfill certain criteria for their clubs’ requirements. Whatever the reason, the service these individuals provide is extremely beneficial.

Organizations like the Youth Volunteer Corp of KC for instance sends a group of middle school & high school kids out at least twice during the summer, a week at a time, to volunteer. Employees from Commerce Bank and First Student helped during last year’s Luminary event. We even had second graders from Wolf Springs Elementary school load luminaries in preparation for the Luminary Walk. Just last week, students from Shawnee Mission’s Medical Science Program worked at the entrance, cleaning the beds and spreading pine straw. And we had nearly 40 students from Blue Valley High School’s National Honor Society work a Saturday morning finishing tree rings in Stous. At our last Night at the Arboretum, we had a large turnout of kids from Blue Valley West that helped with activities. In May, we have employees from Physicians Office Partners coming to help garden. We have also utilized scouting groups, especially individuals looking to complete their Eagle Scout badge for projects such as building bridges or benches for the Arb. No matter the size, the age or the skill level, these groups provide much needed help. 

Today, as people strive to lead lives that reflect their values, the expression of civic life has evolved. Teenagers are learning to give back; adults recognize the satisfaction of volunteerism. It is extremely satisfying to live in a community that provides a beautiful place for the public to visit and for individuals to lend their service and support. To all of our volunteers, whether you give one hour or one hundred, we recognize the good you do and are grateful for your contributions.