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The Full Circle.

Save Our Eagles © 1991 by Gail Garber and friends. Image by Mary Elkins.

Have you ever had one of those experiences that completely changes the direction of your life?  “Save Our Eagles” did just that for me.  Back in 1989, my friends and I offered to make a fund-raising raffle quilt for a local conservation organization.  Other than a love of the outdoors, I was not particularly interested in birds of any kind and had only a passing knowledge of raptors.  But, as we hand-stitched our quilt (like many quilts of that era), I met and fell in love with the group’s first educational raptor, a Red-tailed Hawk, named Red.  It had never occurred to me that being that close to a once wild bird was possible.  More than anything, I wanted to work with her.

Big Red (1989 – 2006). Image by Jerry Hobart.

So, I became a volunteer and eventually became an employee of the organization.  Big Red came to live in a large flight cage that we built for her behind my house.  Each day that she was part of my life was a blessing.  In 1994, we started Hawks Aloft, the non-profit that I continue to direct to this day.  We have a cadre of about 26 non-releasable educational raptors that we use to spread our conservation message.  The presence of the hawk, owl or falcon never fails to entrance children and adults alike.  I know, from personal experience, that a close up encounter with one of these magnificent creatures can change lives.

Hawks Aloft 2012 Raffle Quilt

Because I had been a quilter long before I started Hawks Aloft, we immediately set about making an annual raffle quilt to help raise funds.  Above is our 2012 quilt, stitched by 15 volunteers in one weekend at the cabin!  It was a blast and men, women and children help in its creation each year.  The winning raffle ticket will be drawn on December 1, 2012 at our annual holiday party!  If you would like to purchase a ticket, they are $1 each or 6 for $5.  You can purchase them on the Hawks Aloft website.  Just click on the icon for either single or multiple tickets.

Another occurrence in 2012 affected the lives of not only myself, but also many of my friends.   My friend and colleague in Gail Garber – the company, Michele Hymel, was diagnosed with lung cancer.  It was a huge surprise to all since Michele had never smoked and had always been physically active and fit.  As she was going through chemotherapy, we did what quilters do — we made a friendship quilt for her.  We put the word out and began collecting blocks.   Several of Michele’s friends from her work at the local utility company, PNM, contributed blocks.  We presented the quilt just as she was beginning the treatments.

Michele’s Friendship Quilt – 2012

And then, a funny thing happened.  A coworker of Michele’s contacted Ed Chappelle, who helped to organize the collection of blocks, to say that she had won a quilt a LONG time ago and wanted to donate it to Hawks Aloft for a fundraiser.  The quilt had a pair of eagles and a chick.   As I read his e-mail message, tears ran down my face, for I realized that it might very well be that very first quilt, the one that led me down this avenue of life.  Indeed, it WAS the quilt, the one that started it all, without which there might never have been a Hawks Aloft.

It is now part of my personal quilt collection and Hawks Aloft is $1,000 richer.  These funds will be used for well-deserved staff bonuses at year’s end, as approved by the Board of Directors.  Many thanks to Carol Palmer for this incredible donation!  And, to Ed Chappelle for making the right connections at the right time!  And, to all of you who have worked on the raffle quilts over our 18 year history.  It’s a small world, after all.


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