A Passion for All Animals
A commitment to making a difference prompted Jennifer Ritman to become an AWF Kilimanjaro Society member.
Jennifer Ritman has always had a special affinity for animals-and they, for her. When she was a child, a pair of stray dogs made their way onto the family's property one day. One of them, a Shepherd mix, bonded with Jennifer immediately.
After the rightful owner reclaimed the dog, Jennifer was so miserable that she tried to run away from home. The pup apparently felt the same way; the owner brought her back and allowed Jennifer to keep her. The dog became her link with sanity through a difficult childhood.
Given this history, it's no surprise that, despite her busy career, Jennifer now makes time to volunteer with humane societies and rescue organizations. (Her own dogs, Mr. B and Hank, are rescues.) But Jennifer's love of animals isn't limited to dogs. She is also passionate about elephants, lions and gorillas. She can't imagine how anyone could not love animals. To her, it is so obvious they are sentient beings.
In 2011, while attending AWF's 50th anniversary event at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo, Jennifer and husband Andrew Brinkworth met key AWF staff and learned just how few lions, mountain gorillas and other species remain in the wild. She describes this realization as "gut-wrenching," and knew she had to go to Africa to see these animals in person—and AWF's conservation programs in action. When Jennifer had the opportunity to join an AWF safari a year later, she jumped at the chance. She was recovering from a serious illness but received clearance from her doctors, and July 2012 found her celebrating her 50th birthday with Andrew-in Africa!
Wanting to Do More
The trip was a dream come true, but not without its challenges. Jennifer's health deteriorated over the course of their travels in Rwanda and Zambia. By the time the party reached Muchenje Lodge in Botswana, Jennifer realized the group would have to continue without her.
Because Jennifer desperately wanted to see lions before leaving, Shawn Metcalfe, co-owner of Muchenje, graciously organized a private drive for her. When they finally found a pride, however, her excitement gave way to dismay as she observed dozens of people crowding around to get a glimpse of these few lions.
It took her a long time to process her feelings about the experience.
"While I was ecstatic to have seen the lions, it really hit home just how much damage people have inflicted on this planet," Jennifer explains. "These animals are meant to be here. They are a critical part of the ecosystem. Yet humans continue to destroy the environment."
Though she had been supporting AWF since 2004, Jennifer wanted to do more. With full support from Andrew, she decided to include AWF in her living trust. Jennifer also used her business and personal contacts to host a fundraiser for AWF. More than 100 people attended and she is already planning her next event. She explains, "With the 2016 fundraiser, I want to support the AWF sniffer dog program to assist in the battle against wildlife traffickers. What a perfect merger of my two loves-dogs and wildlife."
You, Too, Can Leave a Legacy for Africa's Wildlife!
Jennifer's legacy gift will ensure that AWF can continue protecting lions, elephants and many other species beyond all of our lifetimes. Making AWF a beneficiary in your own will, life insurance policy or retirement account is simple to do, and it will make a profound impact on Africa's wildlife for generations to come. To learn about becoming a legacy donor, call +1 202 939 3333 or visit awf.org/legacy.