Who hasn’t experienced their own version of the scenario – Your parent or grandparent proudly standing in front of a wall of clutter they’ve accumulated. With arms outstretched, they say, “One day all this will be yours!” 

It is not uncommon for the RAF to receive a call or visit from generous, well-meaning folks whose very wish is to “donate all this” to us. Being a donor-based organization, it’s very tempting – all this for nothing?

But before we accept, your RAF board recalls some sage advice way back in our first ever strategic planning session. It was 2004, and our friends at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) advised us to be cautious about what we take on. RMEF land manager Gary Burnett wisely advised us that if we were successful sticking to our mission, we could find ourselves with more than we could take care of. 

Was that a message we ever wanted to send our donors?

Your early RAF founders listened to Gary’s words carefully and took them to heart. We have been very thoughtful about getting involved in projects that are beyond our resources and capabilities. We strive to prevent those that follow from opening up the “RAF storage shed” and finding places that really don’t belong, with obligations that really can’t be met. 

Your current RAF leadership continues to be selective so that we only accumulate those things that are truly worthy and of benefit to the generations that will follow. Now, more than ever, sticking to the mission of preserving, improving, and creating airstrips for recreational access is as important as it was back in 2003 when this all started. 

Recently, I was struck by all of this when I witnessed the work being done at the newest RAF destination, the beautiful Gillette Lakewood airfield in Wisconsin. At our May RAF work party there, a number of young people joined some “senior” RAF supporters and volunteers. Everyone worked shoulder to shoulder with our friends and donors, Bob and Judy Gillette, to do some maintenance on this special place that current and future generations of recreational aviation enthusiasts will value and protect.

So, with the RAF’s continued diligence and mindfulness, we can anticipate the next generation’s appreciation and genuine enthusiasm when they realize, “Someday all this will be yours.”

– John McKenna, RAF Chairman

Submitted June 17, 2023.

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