Donor Pledges $1M Gift toward new Education & Event Pavilion at the ELC

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Vero Beach, Fla. — Don Barr, Chair of the Board at the Environmental Learning Center (ELC), is pleased to announce that one generous donor is funding the first project in the organization’s long-range Master Plan—the Education & Event Pavilion and Oval.

The ELC recently received a $1M pledge from inventor and business owner Thomas R. Schidel of Vero Beach. Mr. Schidel’s gift will provide for the design, construction and maintenance of a new Education & Event Pavilion and Oval on the ELC’s Wabasso Island campus. The outdoor facility will be ideal for large-scale events and concerts, with a capacity to host up to 500 people. The Pavilion will offer shade, cooling overhead fans, comfort facilities, as well as storage and space for staff to effectively lead group activities. The accompanying Oval will be a large turf area ringed by native plants, and will serve as a space for guests to sit while they enjoy lectures, musical performances, and other educational programs. The Education & Event Pavilion and Oval will also be available to rent for special private occasions.

Tim Buhl (L), ELC Board Secretary & Master Plan Committee Chair with donor Thomas R. Schidel (R)

ELC Board Chair Don Barr said “We are excited to launch our first Master Plan construction project through the generosity of Tom Schidel. His lead gift will change the scope of the ELC’s program offerings, and will give us the opportunity to invite even more people to our campus. Implementation of the ELC Master Plan is a game changer for the ELC and our community. Thank you Tom!”

The ELC’s Master Plan is a five-to-ten year plan that will guide future growth and development, while carrying out the organization’s mission. It will be executed in stages based on community support and fundraising successes. The Plan features a self-sustainable Interpretive Center, Native Butterfly Garden, Canopy Walk, Nature Fun Zone and more. To learn more about the ELC’s Master Plan, please contact Lesley Lichko, Director of Philanthropy at or call (772) 589-5050 ext. 103.

The Environmental Learning Center is a 64-acre 501(c)(3) not-for-profit nature center. The ELC’s mission is to educate, inspire and empower all people to be active stewards of the environment and their own well-being. The organization serves the community through school field trips, camps, lecture series, professional development and more. The ELC campus includes native plant gardens, boardwalks, kayaks, canoes, a pontoon boat, children’s play area and many other amenities that help increase access to nature for people of all ages.


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