The relationship that Lora McClelland and Michael Simmons have to Severson Dells Nature Center is as deeply rooted as it is far-reaching. The love for this organization and the legacy of service was passed down to Lora through her parents, Lowell and Betty Edwards. After becoming dear friends with former director Don Miller, the Edwardses became friends to the nature center and volunteered with restoration efforts, nature education and weekend hosting. Lowell shared his love for the Dells with his grandsons, bringing them out to activities and camps when they were young. The family established a Severson Dells internship with Lowell and Betty’s alma mater, Manchester University, to honor the Edwards’ long-time dedication to Severson Dells. Michael and Lora now host the summer interns at their nearby home, enabling the interns to share their passion for nature education with the children at our camps.
Lora and Michael have kept up the tradition of involvement with Severson Dells. Lora shares her time and talents with us as an event volunteer. Michael Simmons picked up the mantle of education volunteer when he and Lora married. In fact, Severson Dells is such a beloved place to them that they celebrated their wedding at the pavilion overlooking the prairie and the old oak trees on the summer solstice.
Michael and Lora’s spirituality is deeply connected to the earth and with sharing their love for nature with children. They enjoy spending time hiking, bicycling and fighting invasive honeysuckle together. Lora loves getting her hands in the soil and Michael enjoys wandering the forest preserves with their beloved dogs.
The pond at the Dells is a favorite spot for both Michael and Lora. Michael loves teaching aquatic studies to visiting students there and it reminds him of his first connection to nature as a child in the wetlands of Louisiana. Lora says, “I too, love the pond. It makes me laugh as I remember my son Connor falling into it (not once, but twice)!”
Spending time at Severson Dells with their family through camps and explorations with their mother and grandparents left an indelible impact on Lora’s sons. She explains, “My sons both ended up with a love of nature, and my youngest is an environmental science major. I credit a large part of their passion to their formative years at Severson Dells.”
Severson Dells has been fortunate to benefit from Lora and Michael’s generosity and vision, and their gifts have helped more children to develop a meaningful connection to nature. We are so grateful to Michael and Lora for their legacy of support.
If you are inspired by Michael and Lora’s giving nature and you want to make a difference in the place where you live, you can learn more about becoming involved with Severson Dells Nature Center through our many volunteer opportunities, by joining us as a member, or by donating to our mission to connect people to nature.