On Monday I was in Baltimore to participate in the Board of Directors meeting of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation.
Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and Mystic Aquarium
The meeting highlighted the success of a new program developed by the Foundation and Mystic Aquarium this past year. The program, called “Quickball Math”, is the first in a series of conservation oriented science, technology and math initiatives geared towards the more than 1 million young people served by Ripken Foundation programs. It is being developed as an offshoot of our own national Youth Conservation Program , a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program funded by the United States Department of Justice.
You can find out more about our award winning STEM mentoring and Youth Conservation Program by clicking http://stemmentoringprogram.org/ and more about the wonderful programs being offered by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation here http://ripkenfoundation.org/
This year, Quickball Math has been used by 3,000 young people in 66 at-risk communities throughout the nation. It’s making a big impact, but I still feel short when standing beside Cal Ripken, Jr!
Washington, DC and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation
On Tuesday I spent the day with our government relations counsel, The Honorable Toby Moffett and then with Mark Piccirilli and Robbie Callaway, who have worked with us for many years on funding issues related to the U.S. Department of Justice and other agencies.
Mystic Aquarium has many key relationships in Washington, DC and with a new administration taking office it is important for us to be prepared to advocate for issues and funding ranging from our work in rescuing stranding animals, regulatory issues related to marine mammals, and funding for our youth and education initiatives.
Later I attended a reception in the Lincoln Room of the United States Capital to welcome Kristen Sarri, the new President of the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation (marinesanctuaries.org). The Foundation has had significant governance challenges over the past year and I am delighted that they have found an outstanding new president.
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation supports the growth and management of the “national parks of the oceans”. Mystic Aquarium has been a partner with the Foundation since its inception in 2000. In recent years the Foundation has struggled as non-profits sometimes do, with serious issues related to its direction and appropriate balance between the board and its management. The Foundation also has a unique situation in that it is heavily supported by federal funding from NOAA while at the same time needing to act as an entity supportive of, but independent of, NOAA. At times, these kinds of arrangements can blur lines and confuse mission related issues.
I was glad to see that the Foundation is heading back to some normalcy. Its work is important and Mystic Aquarium continues to support the concept and mission, while at the same time needing to assure our own independence from any particular political argument or partisan approach with regard to organizations that we partner with.
I am confident that Kris Sarri will work with the Board of the Foundation to develop appropriate governance and to take steps to assure the integrity of the organization going forward.
Hartford and Tourism
On Wednesday I was in Hartford and had the privilege of meeting with Governor Dannel Malloy in his office at the State Capitol. Governor Malloy has been tremendously supportive of Mystic Aquarium throughout his term in office and has made promotion of tourism a top priority of his administration. Mystic Aquarium has worked closely with Governor Malloy and with his recent predecessors in establishing Mystic as a premier destination.
I serve on the Tourism Advisory Committee for the State of Connecticut and during the past several years, investment by the State in tourism marketing has made a significant impact on growing visitations to Connecticut which generates significant direct revenue to the state via the hotel occupancy and rental car taxes, as well as indirect sales taxes on food, beverage and retail items.
This past year, Connecticut launched a new web site, CTVisit.com which Mystic Aquarium supports.
Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce
We were pleased to host the annual meeting of the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce and to welcome its new President, Peggy Roberts. The Chamber, as with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, has experienced its own turmoil in the past year. Under the guidance of its Chairman, Stephen Clemente and board members including our Director of Public Affairs, Dale Wolbrink, the Chamber has stabilized its finances, clarified its mission, and developed a strategy for the future.
Peggy comes to the Chamber with a media background having won a Pulitzer Prize in journalism and serving as a senior executive in media relations for a major corporation. The most important qualification, however, is her wonderful years of service as a volunteer and then President’s Councilor at Mystic Aquarium!
Finally, on Friday evening some 6,000 people attended the annual Festival of Lights celebration at Mystic Aquarium. Allowing guests to see the Aquarium at night for the cost of a can of food or donation has proven to be a popular holiday event. We collected close to 6,000 pounds of food for the Gemma Moran Food Center to help our neighbors. Here are some images from the evening.
See you all soon!