Jennifer Ritter couldn’t just sit around, idly fretting after she heard about last year's Deepwater Horizon well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. After commiserating with her friend Eva Yean, she called another sympathetic pal, Juliet Falchi. The three decided to do their part by hosting a fundraiser for relief efforts.
Searching for groups involved in the Gulf cleanup, the women learned that Audubon was committed to extensive on-the-ground work and chose the nonprofit as their beneficiary. With some seed money from an Audubon board member and guidance from Audubon New York's development director, Tom O’Handley, the team hosted the organization’s first youth event in New York City this past October, at Manhattan's ACE Hotel. Called "Clean up the Gulf," its attendance exceeded expectations. “I cannot believe how many people came out of the woodwork,” said Ritter, who works in product development at Estee Lauder, in an interview this past May at Audubon's Women in Conservation luncheon, "We had over 250 people."
The support didn’t stop there. “Afterwards, as we were telling people what we did, there were more and more donations that kept coming in,” Ritter said, “It kind of made a ripple effect, because there’s a lot of young people who are interested in being involved in the environment, and a lot of older people who want to support young environmentalists.” In total, the team raised $35,000. For their activism, Ritter, Yean, and Falchi were recognized at the luncheon, along with dozens of other standout “Women of the Gulf."
The fundraiser's success has since inspired Ritter and her friends to take steps toward helping form an Audubon Society in New York for young adults, with hopes of expanding nationwide. Despite the “female power” that the trio’s efforts convey, Ritter sees conservation as a field open to anyone with a promising idea. “If you have the thought and the desire in your mind and the will to do it, you should act on it,” says Ritter. “Do what you can to make your mark.” That goes for guys out there, too.
Audubon Women in Conservation: 2011 Rachel Carson Award Winners