Getting things done: Black Spruce Fund makes $25,000 pledge to Access for All

Ray of sunlight shining on kayakers in sea cave

November 25, 2022

“We made an investment and things got done.” That is how Peter Tropman and Virginia Graves describe the satisfaction of donating to Friends of the Apostle Islands and the Access for All initiative through their Black Spruce Fund. “Friends is a dedicated and competent organization to work with and they continue to grow. It was satisfying to see an investment on our part get a lot of things done.”
It seemed a natural connection. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY and living for years in Milwaukee, Peter says, “the Great Lakes have been a part of my life as long as I can remember.” For over 30 years, Peter and Ginny owned and ran TMG Inc. an organization focused on supporting people with a variety of disabilities and helping them live meaningful lives in their own communities.

“When we got involved in TMG,” Tropman says, “the default setting was to send people to nursing homes or institutionalize them if they couldn’t function like the rest of us. The social commitment of our company was to help people maximize their potential as individuals, to explore their dreams and make real the possibilities that they imagined for their lives which starts with being in their own, real community, surrounded by their real friends and family, and with the ability to access real places that they want as a part of their lives.”

Superior Princess
Virginia Graves and Peter Tropman – Bob Berg photo
At the time of their sale of the company and retirement in 2016, the company started by Peter and Ginny was supporting over 16,000 people through the Wisconsin IRIS Program. Today IRIS empowers over 23,000 nursing-eligible Wisconsin citizens with disabilities to live meaningful lives of independence and dignity in their community.

With that as a background, they say, supporting the efforts of the Access for All initiative of Friends of the Apostle Islands, seemed a natural step.

“We had been coming to the islands for over 20 years,” they say. “The lake and the islands have a spiritual quality to them for us that impart a sense of calm and peace and a real sense of grandeur.” They felt that grandeur early when they themselves took a sea kayaking adventure to the Meyers Beach sea caves, site of one of the cornerstone projects of the Access for All initiative. “It was a life-changing experience,” Peter says, “to be among those caves and we knew right off the bat that this was an experience that should be available to as many people as possible.”
Navigating "the crevasse" at the mainland sea caves.

The crevasse at the mainland caves

Paddling the mainland sea caves

Mainland sea caves

So, when they moved to the Brickyard Creek community of Bayfield, that experience and their connection to the islands came back to them as they considered ways to support the local community. Ginny said, “You know we love national parks, maybe we should support the one we can look out our own windows and see, the one we use.”

In 2017, the pair made a donation of $25,000 to kick off what was then known as the “Wilderness Accessibility Fund” of Friends of the Apostle Islands. That gift became the seed money for such projects as the construction of the all-accessible observation platform on the dock of Little Sand Bay, helped to leverage money in grants and other funds to secure the engineering studies for the accessible amphitheater recently opened on Stockton Island, and grew into the Access for All campaign.

The raised deck surface and boardwalk make this location more accessible to park visitors who may have mobility challenges.

Stockton Island amphitheater rendering

Little Sand Bay viewing platform

After years of regular annual donations to Friends, Peter Tropman and Ginny Graves recently took another step in their philanthropic support by pledging $25,000 more to keep the Access for All initiative vibrant and growing as well as joining the Advisory Committee for the project.

“We feel good about supporting Friends and the Apostle Islands because you can make an investment and see it have a big multiplier effect due to the passion of this organization and its strong partner, the park.”

Infinity symbol in green and orange Access for All
It is people like Peter Tropman and Ginny Graves who are making the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore an even better place through the association with Friends of the Apostle Islands.

Will you join them in supporting the efforts to make our park open and welcoming to all?

For information on how you can help, contact Friends of the Apostle Islands, P.O. Box 1574, Bayfield, WI 54814, 715-449-6900, or visit our website at today.

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