“Puget Sound is such an incredible and unique treasure…people in Seattle are fortunate to see it every day. And the Seattle Aquarium is the embodiment of the treasure that is Puget Sound.” Listening to longtime Seattle Aquarium supporter Lesley Canfield talk about Puget Sound and the Aquarium, you’d never guess that she lives in California.
Lesley has had many years to develop her deep appreciation for the Sound. A California native, she was enticed to visit our area in 1986 by her soon-to-be-husband, Brad, who lived in Seattle. “He took me to Ivar’s, on a ferry ride, to visit the Aquarium…I was just dazzled by all of it,” she says.
It was just a few years later, after her marriage and subsequent relocation to Seattle, that a fortunate concurrence of events took place which created a new sense of purpose in Lesley’s life: she and Brad bought a house on Hood Canal, and she became involved with the Seattle Aquarium.
“We saw the crab population radically diminish along the Hood Canal shoreline,” says Lesley. “The environment was changing before my eyes…I had to do something, help make a change. I couldn’t just sit back.”
Lesley joined the Seattle Aquarium board in 2004 and quickly became involved—chairing the annual Splash! fundraiser, among other key roles, and supporting the Aquarium’s transition to a true conservation organization. “When I first joined the board, there were just two staff members devoted to conservation,” she notes. “Now the team has grown and become the hub of the wheel for so many conservation and education organizations. Conservation is being approached extremely strategically at the Aquarium, and I think it will lead to great success.”
Lesley retired from the Seattle Aquarium board in 2014 and returned to her home state of California, where she remains an avid supporter of the Aquarium’s conservation mission. “Being part of the Aquarium for so long and then moving two states away—my passion is still there,” she says. “I believe it’s important to support the Aquarium and its conservation work no matter where you are. Because, as the Aquarium grows and expands, it becomes much more than a local resource…its impact and reach expand exponentially.”
What would Lesley say to potential Aquarium donors? “I would tell them that their money is very well spent, and that their support goes to work right away,” Lesley responds. “Also that direct gifts can create direct results.” She continues, “If your passion is sea otters, you can find programs that help further understanding of sea otters in the wild and under human care, or help care for animals at the Aquarium. And if you’re passionate about bringing underserved audiences to the Aquarium, every dollar you donate allows another child to experience amazing animals, and to learn about how to care for the marine environment.”
For Lesley, it’s all about ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy the same sense of wonder that she and her family feel every time they stroll a Puget Sound shoreline. “We raised our kids on the beach—that’s where they played,” she says. “And we need to preserve that for those who follow.”