Growing up, WWF National Council member Cheryl Olseth and her siblings, Jon and Karen, spent much of their time outdoors enjoying both the hot summers and the bone-chilling winters of Minnesota. Their parents, Dale and Nancy, established a family culture of civic-mindedness that endures through the Olseth Family Foundation. Today, Cheryl is director of the foundation, and she and her family are helping WWF create a sustainable future for the Northern Great Plains and the communities and wildlife that call it home.
Why is protecting the Northern Great Plains important to your family?
The plains are part of our family’s heritage. In 1904, our paternal grandmother emigrated from Norway with her parents and settled in North Dakota; the Midwest has been our family’s home ever since. Because of that history, we’re committed to protecting this beautiful landscape and supporting its communities. Our ancestors turned the prairie into farmland, but we understand how important protecting the shortgrass prairie is to the health of the region, its people, and its wildlife.
Have you seen WWF in action?
In 2014, my sister Karen and I traveled to Montana with Martha Kauffman, managing director of WWF’s Northern Great Plains program. We fell in love with black-footed ferrets and bison, and after experiencing WWF’s conservation efforts, we realized how closely aligned WWF’s goals are with our foundation’s. After seeing firsthand the positive impact WWF is making there and meeting the remarkable people doing work on the ground, we knew we had to be a part of it—and it’s one of the reasons I’m now a member of WWF’s Northern Great Plains Advisory Committee.
How did your parents shape your family’s philanthropy?
“Be good, do good” is a family mantra that has shaped our lives. Our parents, Dale and Nancy Olseth, instilled in their children that we all need to do the best we can for the community in which we live. They set us an example: reading to the blind, mentoring troubled teens, and supporting institutions like the Minnesota Orchestra and the University of Minnesota. We are proud of the positive impact their commitment has had on this region. We choose to support WWF by way of ensuring that their legacy lives on.