People + Parks: Local Support and Global Wisdom

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By Elizabeth McGuire

If you were planning an expansive, open-ended trip to the other side of the globe, how would you spend your last days at home? Tying up loose ends? Buying supplies? Saying goodbye to friends? Triple-checking your passport and flight details?

If you were Eric Nichols you would be raising money for a treasured hometown organization. This past January, two weeks before he would leave the country for an undetermined time, Nichols created a Facebook fundraiser to benefit Austin Parks Foundation and all the parks he loves.

“My birthday is also in January, and I wanted to raise money in celebration of it,” he said. “When I considered the things that were most important to me I was thinking about everything I’ve enjoyed in Austin. So much of my time has been spent outdoors and at the parks. I’ve only lived in the city for 3.5 years, but I do like to say that Austin shaped me more than any other place. I wanted to give back to something that helped me grow so much.”

Nichols also knew that choosing APF as a beneficiary would resonate with his friends. He set a fundraising goal of $200 and ultimately raised more than $500. “It was so easy to create,” he said. “Just a couple clicks and it was up.”

“The response from friends and family was great,” he said. “It inspired me to make giving back a regular part of my life. Selfishly it’s just a good feeling knowing you did something for an organization, but it’s also really empowering to make a difference. I definitely feel motivated to keep giving back to the communities I love.”

Raised in Atlanta and Dallas, Nichols came to Austin to study advertising at the University of Texas. He spent his free time outdoors, particularly at green spaces like Shoal Creek, Pease Park and Zilker Park. Nichols graduated early so he could turn what would have been his final spring semester into a global adventure/DIY study abroad program.

Nichols bought a one-way ticket to Asia—first visiting Singapore, then Vietnam and currently Thailand.

“It started as a semester-long trip, but now I want it to last as long as possible. Maybe a year or more.”

Two months into the trip he already feels like a changed person.

“It’s been so interesting to see how people live in these other countries. I’ve thought about how they are giving me so much, and I’m not giving them the same in return. Right now I’m traveling Asia for fun and for my own benefit, but I definitely want to come back and do more work that will help the community in some way.”

One lesson he’s learned from his travels ties back to his affection for hometown parks.

“When I’m traveling, my favorite way to develop a personal connection to a city is to spend time walking through it. Whenever I get to a new place I walk through the city, sometimes without a map. I find that when I get to a park, I can take a moment to let it sink in and absorb everything. Parks are always a good space to really appreciate what you’re surrounded by.”

People Plus Parks is a series featuring the people behind the work we’re doing in Austin’s parks. Check out the “People + Parks” category for more.

If you’d like to create a fundraiser like Eric, Facebook makes it simple! Your friends and family can give in honor of your birthday, a pet’s birthday, an anniversary, or just because. Fundraisers like Eric’s help APF continue to provide access to safe, healthy parks for every Austinite, and every bit helps!

Check out the fundraisers section of Facebook and follow the instructions to choose APF as your charity beneficiary. Once it’s all set up you can share the fundraiser with your Facebook friends, and let them know why parks are important to YOU!

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