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  • Writer's pictureGig Harbor Living Local

An Eye on Nature

Community steps up in support of nonprofit

By Colin Anderson | Photo Courtesy of Harbor WildWatch

The tranquility of the harbor and the amazing amount of natural beauty, wildlife and marine species is a big reason so many call Gig Harbor home, and always will. Below the water is an amazing amount of biodiversity, and keeping it so is a top priority of many citizens and community groups. Harbor WildWatch continues to be a great steward for the local ecosystems through educating visitors and locals, adults and kids alike. The nonprofit’s programs are experienced by thousands each month, and its digital programs have made their way to screens all across the globe. The Skansie Visitor & Interpretive Center in downtown Gig Harbor brings visitors up close with the biodiversity that is all around them, providing a truly unique experience. We recently caught up with Executive Director Lindsey Stover to ask about Harbor WildWatch’s recent Make Waves fundraiser, what the support from the community means, and some upcoming programs that anyone can take part in.

How did the event go, and what did participants enjoy the most?

Last month was Harbor WildWatch’s seventh annual Make Waves benefit to support local environmental education. This year, over 100 attendees joined us virtually to celebrate our successes and challenges over the last year through a mix of live and pre-recorded videos that highlighted our work in the community. Participants enjoyed seeing videos of all the virtual programs we delivered at the beginning of the year, and hearing about our plan for a hybrid program approach for the remainder of 2021. Many guests purchased our Salish Sea Gift Box to enhance their virtual experience, which included salty and sweet snacks, our 2021 commemorative pin, and the ingredients for our signature cocktail. They also enjoyed our behind-the-scenes tour of our studio location at Ocean5, cocktail tutorial, and virtual program blooper reel. In total, this event raised over $20,000 from sponsors and participants who raised their virtual paddle to support our mission of inspiring stewardship for the Salish Sea.

How important is this event when it comes to helping carry out the programs you provide to the community throughout the year?

This event is incredibly important because it is our only fundraising event each year. We rely on the funds raised to help sustain our programs by paying for things that grants typically don’t cover—like keeping the lights on, paying the phone bill, staff training, and other essential operational costs. These donations directly support our three staff members in delivering hundreds of programs to our community and beyond each year.

Where do the donations and proceeds from Make Waves go, and what impact does that have in the local community?

Donations from Make Waves go directly toward supporting the programs we deliver to hundreds of students, adults and families each year. This includes guided walking tours for the public at the beaches, wetlands, estuaries and forests; Pier Into the Night SCUBA exploration; Cocktails & Fishtales presentations; community science monitoring; and classroom and field STEM workshops. Since January of this year, we have delivered a total of 233 environmental education programs with over 300,000 minutes viewed across multiple digital platforms from people all over the world.

If someone missed this event, what are some other ways they can support your organization?

We accept donations from the community year-round through our website, Facebook, TikTok, and in person at the Skansie Visitor & Interpretive Center. You can also support us by following, commenting and sharing our content on social media and attending our in-person events this fall.

What are some of the fun interactive activities Harbor WildWatch has coming up now through the end of the year?

We are thrilled to bring back our popular Pier Into the Night program on the first Saturday of the month from October through March. This program takes participants on an underwater journey of Gig Harbor Bay at night using SCUBA divers and an underwater ROV. We will also have in-person salmon tours in November and December to coincide with the Chum salmon run in Donkey Creek. Finally, you can visit us Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm at the Skansie Visitor & Interpretive Center in downtown Gig Harbor. Here you can touch live marine creatures in our “touch tank,” examine plankton under a microscope, play in our augmented reality sandbox, or view our extensive skull collection of animals from around the world.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

While this was our seventh Make Waves benefit, it was our second year holding this event virtually. We very much hoped to be back to our in-person event this year, but we didn’t feel it was safe for our staff, Board or supporters with Delta surging in our community. We made the most out of our situation and still put on a stellar program for everyone.

If you would like to view the event in its entirety, you can do so at Harbor WildWatch’s Facebook page:

To find out more about Harbor WildWatch, and to stay up to date on upcoming events, visit

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