On Galveston Island we have been blessed to have people living among us whose vision and absolute determination have brought us community-changing projects, organizations and institutions. The late Alfreda Houston’s compassion for people often forgotten led to the founding of St. Vincent’s House; Anne Brasier’s determination that all Galveston’s children have a place to learn to swim helped bring us the new community swimming pool; Jackie Cole could not let the island be robbed of its trees following Hurricane Ike and founded the Galveston Island Tree Conservancy.

Each of these dreamers was joined by scores of Galvestonians working tirelessly and selflessly to make certain that the particular vision became real. All of us have benefited from their patience and persistence.

Today, I want to add another dreamer to this list … Karla Klay. Fourteen years ago, Karla and a friend were sitting at Karla’s kitchen table discussing the importance of raising a generation of young people who understood the urgency of conserving open space and natural habitats along the Texas coast. Out of that discussion grew an environmental education program that connects art and environmental science institutionalized in Artist Boat. Today, programs include Eco-Art Kayak Adventures for public school children, Project SIT that brought Galveston the beautiful tiled benches that line our seawall, residency programs in our schools, recycling on our beaches, and so much more. Artist Boat has delivered the message of respect for our precious natural resources to tens of thousands of individuals of all ages.

In 2009, Karla expanded the dream to encompass land conservation. It was not enough to teach others about stewardship. She and the board of Artist Boat were determined to lead by example. They set a goal to buy back the 1,075 acres of West End land purchased for high density development in 2007. To date, Artist Boat has acquired more than 600 of those acres and is not stopping there.

Just as Alfreda, Anne and Jackie were joined by so many others without whom the vision would not translate into reality, Karla has many partners. Dozens of staff and board members have worked with imagination and determination; donors, front-line volunteers and supporters have been the inspiration and the safety net for so much of Artist Boat’s success.

Cara Moore and Ann Simmons are two of those supporters; these women understand the urgency of educating this generation and the next about the responsibility of environmental stewardship and the preservation of open space on our little barrier island. They have supported and encouraged the work of Artist Boat with their time, treasure and talent. They have infused events and programs with sparkle and an irrepressible sense of joy.

It is our turn to say thank you for their years of friendship and support. Artist Boat is honoring Cara and Ann at this year’s Float the Boat party. Please join us at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at The Trolley Station for a fabulous auction, delicious dinner, dancing music by Alligator Handshake and the opportunity to celebrate Ann and Cara and the amazing work of Artist Boat.

Betty Massey is president of the board of directors for Artist Boat and lives in Galveston.

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