Episode 221:

In retirement, Loren is privileged to be applying her experiences and skills to the most important and long-lasting project in which she ever has been involved: the development and construction of a nature trail designed specifically for visitors with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities — located in Letchworth State Park, recently voted the #1 state park in the country AND #1 attraction in New York State!

Destination on the Left is joined by Loren Penman, a retired educator working full time to bring the Autism Nature Trail to fruition. Our agency, Break the Ice Media, is the marketing partner assisting with the public fundraising phase of the capital campaign, which will make the Autism Nature Trail a reality. On our podcast, Loren explains how the trail was first conceived, and how a volunteer group took it from concept to project. She also talks about how the campaign was able to reach its goals in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic. The story of the Autism Nature Trail is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with the use of collaboration and creativity.

SPECIAL NOTE: Since the recording of this episode, Loren has shared some exciting news with us! The official, COVID-style groundbreaking for The Autism Nature Trail (The ANT) at Letchworth State Park took place on February 19, 2021, and the Trail is on schedule to open later this year.

Also, the ANT has launched a two-month GoFundMe Charity Campaign to fund the Celebration Station — the last stop on the Trail — in honor of Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month (March) and Autism Awareness Month (April). Please consider contributing to this worthy cause. The link to make fully tax-deductible donations is: https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/celebrate-inclusion-and-nature-for-all

What You Will Learn:

  • Loren’s background and involvement with the Autism Nature Trail
  • What the Autism Nature Trail is, and how it got started
  • How our team has been able to get involved with the public fundraising phase of the ANT
  • How Loren and her team took the project from concept to reality
  • How creativity and collaboration were used to help the campaign reach its goal in spite of challenges posed by the pandemic
  • What Loren did to overcome the challenges of a public-private sector collaboration
  • Where the project is now, and where it is heading

The Autism Nature Trail

Destination on the Left is joined by Loren Penman, a retired educator working full time to bring the Autism Nature Trail to fruition. Our agency, Break the Ice Media, is the marketing partner assisting with the public fundraising phase of the capital campaign, which will make the Autism Nature Trail a reality. On our podcast, Loren explains how the trail was first conceived, and how a volunteer group took it from concept to project. She also talks about how the campaign was able to reach its goals in spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic. The story of the Autism Nature Trail is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with the use of collaboration and creativity.

Broadening the Appeal

Loren and her community are finally ready to construct a one-mile looped trail with eight sensory stations in Letchworth State Park—this is the Autism Nature Trail or ANT for short. The ANT is a first-of-its-kind experience that started with a singular slant toward individuals on the spectrum, but it has since expanded to become a totally ADA compliant nature trail for all to enjoy. The special characteristics that make this trail perfect for the original target have a broad appeal to everyone. Our team was lucky enough to help share that message with the surrounding community so Loren and her team could realize their dream.

From Concept to Reality

From a simple, inspirational conversation in Letchworth to a fully-funded private-public project, Loren had her work cut out for her from the start. In order to take this project from concept to reality, she had to address a number of different challenges that required support from the community and local government. Once she had the ear of the right people, Loren managed to raise every dollar they needed through private donations so the trail could be operated safely and effectively. This was a $3.7M feat, and they structured the trail with the future in mind. From design and build to maintenance and management, this project is blessed with the expertise of many different professionals. This is creativity and collaboration at its finest, and even a pandemic hasn’t been able to stop the momentum they’ve created.

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