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Dinner raises tens of thousands for community

During Conservation Dinner 2024.


Hundreds of people attend 34th Conservation Dinner, raising tens of thousands of dollars for community
More than 340 people attend 34th Conservation Dinner, generously raising funds to support community projects including parks, trails, outdoor nature education, youth programs, recreation and more 

Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation and Exeter Lions Club hosted the 34th Conservation Dinner and Auction, on Thursday, April 11, 2024 at South Huron Recreation Centre in Exeter. More than 340 people attended the gala community fundraiser and they generously raised tens of thousands of dollars for community projects.

The Conservation Dinner has raised more than $1.39 million, in net proceeds for the community, over its 34-year history. More than $45,000 was raised at the Dinner in 2024. The Conservation Dinner Committee says the success of the April 11 fundraiser is thanks to the generosity of guests bidding at the Auction as well as the generosity of sponsors and donors and artists and volunteers. Organizers say the success is also thanks to the generous contributions of the auctioneers, who were Bob Heywood; Ben Lobb; Richard Lobb; and Kevin McArter.

At the end of the evening, patrons at the Dinner generously donated more than $4,400 to make it possible to send 22 young people to summer nature day camp.

Chris Keller, of Exeter Lions Club, is Chair of the Conservation Dinner Committee.  “I would like to thank everyone who was part of making the evening a success,” he said. “The Lions Club members and other volunteers work hard all year to host this event, and they work hard setting up for the evening, and that night taking everything down, but it’s a wonderful feeling to see everything come together and to know we are making a difference. On behalf of the Conservation Dinner Committee, I would like to thank the sponsors and donors and guests, feature artist Stephanie Denomme, the auctioneers, the volunteers, and everyone else who made this possible.”

The 2024 Feature Artist was Stephanie Denomme, owner of Blush & Blossom Floral in Exeter. “It is an honour standing up here today at the 34th Conservation Dinner,” she told the crowd of more than 340. “It truly brings me so much joy being a part of your memorable celebration. I would like to thank Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation as well as Exeter Lions Club for this amazing opportunity to be part of tonight. I would like to thank my family and friends for attending tonight. Without your love and support, Blush & Blossom Floral would not exist. It truly means the world to me you’re all here.”

This year’s auction provided a golden opportunity for people to have beautiful photos taken thanks to Kimberly Roy Photography and those photos were taken under a beautiful arbour provided by Dave and Brenda Erb and decorated by this year’s feature artist.

The Dinner and Auction featured live and silent auctions of art and distinctive items such as travel packages and entertainment and sports memorabilia including framed, autographed jerseys. The Dinner had special raffles, general raffles, appetizers, fun and fellowship, and a wonderful meal and appetizers from Donnelly Café of Lucan. 

Darryl Beaver is President of the Exeter Lions Club. “The Exeter Lions Club is pleased to partner with the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation to present this excellent Dinner and Auction,” he said in his remarks to the crowd. “Exeter Lions Club thanks everyone for their continued support and contributions.” The Dinner, he said, has made it possible to support important projects such as the MacNaughton-Morrison Section of the South Huron Trail and stocking Morrison Reservoir with rainbow trout for the fishing derby each year for young people and the young at heart.

Dave Frayne is Chair of the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation. “Fifty years ago, the Conservation Foundation was started,” he said in his remarks. “We have some wonderful groups here with the Lions Club, the volunteers, and everyone else who helps out … thank you.”

Net proceeds are split 50-50 between community conservation projects of the Conservation Foundation and community conservation projects of the Exeter Lions Club. The auction and dinner supports projects such as a family-friendly fishing derby, accessible nature trails in Bayfield, Clinton, Parkhill, Lucan, Arkona, Exeter, and Varna; opportunities for students to experience outdoor nature education; a $1,000 student environmental grant for students in local communities; a summer job at Ausable Bayfield Conservation for a senior secondary school student; turtle monitoring and events in Port Franks and Ailsa Craig; aquatic habitat work in the Old Ausable Channel, Grand Bend; nature day camps; Owl Prowl; and parks and conservation areas.

PHOTO AT TOP OF PAGE: 34th CONSERVATION DINNER RAISES TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FOR NEEDED COMMUNITY PROJECTS – The Conservation Dinner took place on Thursday, April 11, 2024 at South Huron Recreation Centre in Exeter. Shown in photo, from left to right, are: Dave Frayne, Chair of Ausable Bayfield Conservation Foundation; Darryl Beaver, President of Exeter Lions Club; Marissa Vaughan, Chair of Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA); Davin Heinbuck, ABCA General Manager and Secretary-Treasurer; and Chris Keller, Chair of the Conservation Dinner Committee.

FEATURE ARTIST IS STEPHANIE DENOMME OF BLUSH & BLOSSOM FLORAL – In photo, Kevin McArter and Ben Lobb, two of the auctioneers at the 34th Conservation Dinner, are shown as 2024 feature artist Stephanie Denomme, of Blush & Blossom Floral in Exeter, holds up a display for the feature art with help from Tom Hartai of the Exeter Lions Club.

Feature artist Stephanie Denomme during live auction.


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