June 2021 – Matt Sullivan was born just a few years after the birth of the Hawai`i Nature Center and remembers his first views of nature from his father’s back, strapped in a baby carrier. He’d take him into the wilderness and Matt would soak up the sights with wide-eyed wonder.
At 35, the California resident has never forgotten his childhood experiences at the Makiki Valley campus where he built birdhouses, discovered native plants and listened to stories of the forest. His teachers were his earliest educators sharing lessons of the skies and the streams and the aina and ahu`pua`a. He recalls being fascinated by the discovery that that silky juice of the ginger bulb awapuhi could serve as a natural shampoo. “It was just so much fun to experience nature like this in this setting with these kinds of teachers,” he recalls.
One of the best things to do on school breaks was to come to the Oahu center – a magical place that was alive with the sounds of birds and wind. It was so dramatically different from the arid landscape of his hometown of suburban Hawaii Kai. When his family later moved to Kailua, his relationship with nature deepened as a canoe paddler and kite and board surfer.
Today he shares his life in California with his wife Tannis who works in agricultural sustainability. The two share a passion for the outdoors. They surf and savor long hikes with their dog. Today, the Stanford graduate, who had founded a tech company of his own, now works in the family business Oceanit that specializes in research and development for environmental energy solutions and adaptations to climate change. Those early lessons are more than memories but a powerful force that he carries into his experiences as an adult.
What does the experience of nature cultivate in children? According to Matt Sullivan, “It creates empathy and respect for our natural world.” His empathy for nature and wildlife has led to his own personal philanthropy to preserve the world for generations to come. Every child in Hawaii should experience the wonders of nature like Matt did as a young boy, which is why he’s also become a donor to protect the experience for the children of Hawaii. Your gift today no matter how small matters.