Supporter Spotlight: James DeKay and Jill Vaughan

Aaron Rogers

Dec 1, 2017


Mother and son embrace the gift of conservation.

Once again the season of giving is upon us and with it comes a tale of a mother and son who chose to forego traditional gift giving and instead embrace the gift of protecting acres. James DeKay, a Rainforest Trust supporter since 2009, and his mother Jill Vaughan, a supporter since 2015, both grew up with a deep love and appreciation for nature and conservation.

“I am fortunate that my parents enjoyed, appreciated and, it seems now, revered nature,” Jill recalled. “In walks through the woods, my father would point out animal tracks and scat and walked as if he truly revered the forest.” From a young age, Jill’s parents instilled in her an appreciation for nature that has stayed with her throughout her life and one that she made sure she passed on to her son. “My mother was always deeply connected to nature and she shared her appreciation for it with me,” stated James.

So, when it came time to give back, James chose to do so in a manner that would honor not only his mother, but also the reverence for nature she gained as a young girl exploring the gorges of Ithaca, New York with her father. “It was my younger son, James, who introduced me to Rainforest Trust,” Jill explained. “It was on my birthday that I received from James a Rainforest Trust certificate and word of his donation.” Later that year Jill decided to take a cue from her son and gave him a gift of protected acres for his birthday.

“I am proud of our decision to celebrate our birthdays by avoiding the traditional gifts and choosing instead to honor each other with donations that help protect the rainforests of the Earth,” Jill stated. A love of nature has been a driving force in both of their lives, and upon their discovery of Rainforest Trust they knew their donations would be directly supporting the environment and its species.

“I used Charity Navigator several years ago to find a small or mid-sized organization where I knew my occasional donations could make a difference,” explained James. “I was very happy to find Rainforest Trust whose priorities, strategies, medium size and overall efficacy motivated me enormously…here was an organization where my giving could make a difference, and, talk about a bang for my buck!”

  • James DeKay.

But it’s not just the value that they get from their donations that keeps them coming back to Rainforest Trust year after year, it’s the impact that the nonprofit’s work has on present and future generations. “I give to Rainforest Trust because you work to preserve beauty, majesty, mysteries, amazing species evolved over millions of years, astoundingly complex relationships among those species and others and because your work is part of the Earth’s recent heritage,” said James. He continued, “You identify endangered and threatened species, and you protect acres that do a great deal to trap carbon dioxide or prevent its release into the atmosphere…anyone who has studied climate change even superficially knows that trapping the heat-causing gases is a part of the equation to doing what we can do to prevent worst case scenarios.”

In the end though, Jill’s words about why she supports Rainforest Trust are the ones that really hit home about the importance of the organization’s conservation work:

“Perhaps it is this moment that you tell yourself you must do more for all the birds, all this beauty, all of the water, those stately trees, the hidden worms – all of it. You want the life within there to survive and thrive. Our donations are what we need to cherish and protect what could again be a remarkable Earth.”

“Rainforest Trust makes me feel it is keeping our Earth for all of those who come next and next and next.”

For more information on ways that you can give the gift of conservation, you can visit our Conservation Action Fund.