Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

About Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods promotes the importance of nature for nurturing personal and community wellbeing, cultivating creativity, and inspiring learning.

Since 1984 Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods has been a nexus between communities, nature, and the arts across Lake County and the greater Chicago region.

Brushwood Center’s four primary program areas include:

1) At Ease: Nature and Art for Veterans | This program empowers military Veterans’ wellbeing by connecting them to nature through a series of art and nature workshops. At Ease began in 2014, and has engaged more than 500 Veterans across the Chicago region during this time period, with significant growth over the last three years.
2) It’s A W.I.N. (Art & Wellness in Nature) | Recognizing the importance of nature for children, It’s A W.I.N. strives to create equitable access to natural areas for underserved youth in Lake County through trainings, field trips and off-site visits to support children, community partners, and caregivers. It’s A W.I.N. reaches more than 1,000 youth and families each year.
3) Inspirational Public Programs | Brushwood Center offers thought-provoking exhibitions, concerts, and an art supply exchange to inspire action for the planet. We host the annual Smith Nature Symposium, which honors internationally recognized environmental leaders.
4) Regional and National Collaboration | Brushwood Center is a leader in efforts across the Chicagoland region to facilitate increased collaboration between natural areas and healthcare providers through our engagement in research and regional and national coalitions.

What would a $1,000 contribution to your program / organization provide?

$1,000 supports 40 Nature Explorer Backpacks / Mochilas de Explorador, distributed to families from low-income communities each summer through our partner libraries.

What would a $10,000 contribution to your program/organization provide?

$10,000 underwrites a full year of Nature Photography teaching fees for our At Ease program for Military Veterans.

Impact, Performance metrics & Outcome statistics

Serves 10,000 community members annually through diverse programming, including more than 1,200 school age children from overburdened communities in Lake County and 250 military Veterans.

Impact Documentation

Brushwood Center believes that data collection and management are critical to understanding our programmatic impact, identifying areas for improvement, and engaging with our participants in designing strong and effective programs. Continuous data collection is an organizational priority.
Additionally, Brushwood Center uses our evaluation data to inform the execution of our programs as well as our overall strategic priorities. For example, during our interviews with partners last year, we identified key opportunities for shifting our programs to meet the emerging needs of COVID-19, including launching a mask-making drive, bilingual “Nature Explorer Backpacks,” virtual art therapy programs, and nature-based meditation programs. We are constantly adapting our programs to fit the needs of the communities we work with and evaluation helps us ensure that we remain responsive.

Impact Results

Thanks to our committed network of supporters and volunteers, Brushwood Center:
• Receives consistently high ratings for program impact: 93 percent of Veteran participants said nature and art experiences reduced their levels of tension and stress.
• Serves as a focal point for area artists, musicians and performers, increasing in numbers from 80 in 2018 to 250 in 2020.
• Amplifies environmental leadership through the Smith Nature Symposium, reaching more than 2,400 viewers across the nation.
• Engages actively with more than 50 community partners through our programs.

Organization's champions, leaders and key supporters

Brushwood Center’s programs and partnerships are successful thanks to the tremendous effort of its community of volunteers, board, and more than 50 community partners. The board consists of individuals with expertise in nature, art, and wellness as well as residents of the local community. Our Board includes African American, Latinx, and Asian American representation, and our Spanish-speaking members often volunteer with our programs, especially those with bilingual youth and families.

Brushwood Center’s champions include a committed circle of board members, supporters, and volunteers, including the following:

BOARD MEMBERS: Gail Sturm (Chair), Emilian Geczi, Jacalyn Ramdin Johnson, Martha Twaddle, John Leonard, Robert K. Heinrich, Eleanor Ranney-Mendoza, Mike Levin, Jonathan Huisel, Héctor Rasgado-Flores, Michelle Cronin, Brad Mueller, Lorra Rudman

HONORARY BOARD: Barbara Whitney Carr, Barbi Donnelley, Thomas E. Donnelley, II, James G. Goshalk, Jr., John M. Haight, III, Maxine Hunter, Jossy Nebenzahl, Adele Simmons, Susan Spears, George A. Ranney, Jr.

ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS: Gerald W. Adelmann, Henry W. Barkhausen, Joseph Kayne, Heeyoung Kim, Bill Kurtis, Donna La Pietra, Barbara G. Mahany, Gregory M. Mueller, Judith M. Stockdale, Bill Sturm

SIGNIFICANT DONOR ORGANIZATIONS: Chicago Community Trust, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Cash Grant, Illinois Arts Council, Morrison Family Foundation, Grainger Foundation, Oberweiler Foundation, Village of Riverwoods, Abbott, North Shore Gas, Buchanan Family Foundation, Hunter Family Foundation, ComEd, Solberg Manufacturing Inc., Million Dollar Round Table Foundation, Gorter Family Foundation, Abbvie, CIBC, John & Kathleen Schreiber Foundation, Lumpkin Family Foundation

Give Time, Things, Support

Give Support (monetary donations)
You can join the Brushwood Center family of supporters! Brushwood Center depends on the generosity of donors to support our nature, art, and wellness programs throughout the year. Please consider a gift of any amount to make this impact possible.

Donations can be made online or checks can be mailed to:
Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods
21850 N. Riverwoods Road
Riverwoods, IL 60015

Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods Stats
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Number of Full Time Employees
Year Established
501(c)3 Tax Exempt?
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Contact Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods
21850 N Riverwoods Rd , Riverwoods, IL 60015