TFT Hosts Annual River Trips for Women Executives

September 27, 2019

The Freshwater Trust (TFT), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit protecting and restoring freshwater ecosystems, hosted its third river trip for women leaders, founders and C-suite executives this past week.

The “Women on Water” (WOW) expeditions began in 2018 to provide women with rewarding experiences on multiday fishing and rafting trips on acclaimed Pacific Northwest rivers. TFT Board Member and Founder of A to Z Wineworks Deb Hatcher led the initial charge, after recognizing that women leaders rarely have the same exciting, nature-oriented opportunities as men to not only challenge their physical abilities as a group, but also make connections and become involved in environmental causes as a result.

“There seemed to always be chances for men to get on the water and have the river be a backdrop for great camaraderie and mentorship,” said Hatcher. “l wanted a similarly inspiring opportunity for women to connect with each other, the rivers, and TFT. We know that women are the driving force for great change in society and what better way to get their support and leadership on water health than a life-changing experience on some of the most pristine water in the country?”

The maiden trip took place in August 2018 on the Main Salmon River in Idaho and included 23 women leaders based predominantly in Oregon. The success of the trip spread word of mouth and the second year grew from 23 to 35 women spanning two trips; one on the Middle Fork Salmon River in Idaho in July and one on the Rogue River in southern Oregon in September. Each trip is guided by Helfrich Outfitters of Idaho and Oregon and features women guides, such as CEO Kelsey Helfrich.

Expeditions are designed to provide leaders with time away from their busy schedules, learn about rafting and fishing, build relationships with other women leaders, and spend time with staff and supporters of TFT. There are structured evening discussions on topics such as leadership, professional development, and the importance of healthy water intersecting with business.

“This experience is so much bigger than The Freshwater Trust,” said McCailin Wunder, Freshwater Fund Associate Director at TFT. “Of course, we hope we can introduce women to what we are doing to protect and restore rivers like the ones they experience for five days, but beyond that, we want to hold space for women to connect with and uplift one another.”

Michelle Cardinal, Founder & CEO of R2C Group, one of the largest advertising agencies in the state, attended the trip twice. Other women in attendance have included Kim Malek, founder of Salt & Straw, Emma Mcllroy, founder and CEO of WildFang, Vanessa Sturgeon, CEO of TMT Development, and Jamie Danek Founder & CEO of Humm Kombucha.

“When I got the call from Deb to be included on this trip, I didn’t hesitate to say yes,” said Cardinal. “The trip was not only fun, it was inspiring. I was truly blown away by the depth and talent of women leadership in Oregon. WOW is now a supportive network of women helping each other on everything from law, to real estate, marketing and finance. And more importantly, we are educating women leaders about the importance of keeping our rivers and streams pristine for generations to come.”

WOW attendees pay a fee to cover the costs of the trip. Participants also have the opportunity to contribute to the WOW Fund, which provides scholarships for emerging women leaders and supports TFT’s river restoration and conservation efforts. To date, the organization has raised more than $30,000 towards the WOW Fund.

“A big part of our focus is to ensure equity and inclusion for new WOW members. And also provide opportunities for emerging women leaders through our scholarship program. This summer, we were thrilled to award several scholarships to participants,” said Hatcher.

TFT assists in helping the group expand to include more attendees and help raise funds for freshwater conservation. To date, 35 women have participated in WOW.

“These women want to change the world,” said Rukaiyah Adams, chief investment officer with Meyer Memorial Trust and WOW participant. “They are successful, influential, and passionate leaders. In short, they know how to get it done. Helping bring together this group of incredible women for WOW has been the highlight of my year, and I can’t wait to see what they do next.”