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Growing Up Wild

Solomé Walker

Cadell Walker, the Conservancy's Director of Philanthropy in Kentucky, and daughter Solomé.

In 2013, The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky’s Director of Philanthropy, Cadell Walker, and husband Bret traveled to Ethiopia to adopt their daughter Solomé. They have enjoyed every minute since, especially moments stolen away outdoors.

“Working in conservation, I am well aware of the important role nature plays in children’s lives – from enhancing emotional and academic growth to benefiting physical health,” says Walker. “I also find comfort in showing her the important reason why I leave for work each day.”

Walker may also be cultivating a future Nature Conservancy donor because author, journalist and child advocate Richard Louv notes in his ground-breaking book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder, that regular access to green spaces influences the degree to which children will take care of the planet in the future. Louv’s work was recently validated by a global survey conducted by the Conservancy, with support from Disney, which polled parents of children ages 3 - 18 about how much importance they place on having kids spend time in nature. Findings revealed 82% of U.S. parents view spending time in nature as “very important” to their children’s development – second only to reading as a priority.

These are reasons why in recent years, the Conservancy has stepped up its outreach to younger generations and why Cadell and Bret Walker visit the Conservancy’s Dupree Nature Preserve and other Kentucky natural areas on a regular basis with their daughter.

“When we first brought her home to Kentucky, Solomé was hesitant to even touch the grass, which was largely absent from the Ethiopian landscape,” adds Walker. “Now we can’t keep her away from the grass, dirt…all of it!”

The Walkers also hope that their daughter’s love of the outdoors leads to a connection with humanity and down the road, her native Africa where the unsustainable use of natural resources to support local livelihoods threatens air and water quality and a unique and breathtaking landscape.

“We hope that we are giving Solomé an appreciation for preserving nature for its own sake and for the services it provides all of us,” says Walker. “Then someday, after a childhood spent outdoors, she can spread that appreciation to others around the globe.”

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