The power of one: Paul Blanchard

Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke and Paul Blanchard shake hands

October 26, 2022

If you were out at Sand Island in the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore this summer, you likely saw (and probably heard) the National Park Service crew hard at work hauling planks, pounding nails, tightening bolts, working on an addition to the long-term boardwalk project on the island.

If you did, if you saw and heard that work, you experienced the difference that one donor can make.

Paul Blanchard, a retired teacher who lives in Cornucopia, Wisconsin, had been looking for a project to donate to in honor of a friend. That friend had spent a career with the National Park Service and so a donation to help a park made sense.

“A friend told me,” Blanchard says, “that the National Park Service often has projects that are not yet completely funded, projects big and small, that you can give directly to through their Friends organization.” He contacted Friends of the Apostle Islands.

Exploring the Sand Island boardwalk – Jeff Rennicke photo

Exploring the Sand Island boardwalk – Jeff Rennicke photo

In 2016, the National Park Service began a major, multi-year project ; its goal is to build an all-accessible boardwalk connecting the dock and campsites at East Bay with the Sand Island Lighthouse, more than two miles away.

Nearly a mile has been completed, along with a section to the historic Hansen Farm, through funding sources managed by the National Park Service and the hard work of its crew. But still more needs to be done.

NPS map showing the island outline and features

Sand Island – National Park Service map

Paul Blanchard saw the importance of the project. He saw what needed to be done, and stepped up to do something about it, donating $30,000 to our Access for All fund, enough for the National Park Service crew to continue a summer’s work on the project.

Recently, Blanchard had a chance to hike the boardwalk that he had helped to make possible. It was a moving moment for the 81-year-old. “There’s a lot of charities you see on TV,” he said standing on the Sand Island boardwalk, “and you send your money in but you are never completely sure if it got to what you intended.”

Here I can see directly what my money went to and I’m happy that I gave to this project and can see what difference it made.

Paul Blanchard

“We are honored that Paul chose the Access for All fund as a fitting tribute to his friend,” says Jeff Rennicke, Executive Director of Friends of the Apostle Islands. “His contribution will make a true and lasting difference to those who visit Sand Island and proves the power that donors can have on the places they love.”

You too can make a difference to the park, for others, and for yourself.

Please consider donating to our Access for All fund.

Infinity symbol in green and orange Access for All

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