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Everyone Has a Legacy

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Apr 15, 2019 09:30 AM |

For Russ Levy, caring for trails means thinking beyond his own lifetime — and planning to leave a legacy that includes caring for trails and wild space for generations to come.

For Russ Levy, caring for trails means thinking beyond his own lifetime — and planning to leave a legacy that includes caring for trails and wild space for generations to come.

When Russ moved to Washington for work more than 20 years ago, he immediately took to the trails in his free time.

“I was like a kid in a candy store,” he said.

He was hiking so often, his co-workers quickly noticed. In 1998, one of Russ’s coworkers told him about volunteer work parties. Russ signed up for a work party on National Trails Day. The rest, as they say, is history.

To date, Russ has participated in more than 300 trail work parties. In 2016, he became an assistant crew leader.

“From the first day, I was hooked,” Russ said. “Trail work has really become my community and my family.”

A lifetime of hiking and caring for trails

After more than two decades of volunteering, Russ is still devoted to the mission of WTA — so much so that he’s included WTA in his will. He appreciates that through volunteering and planned giving, WTA gives him a venue to make a difference for trails now and for years to come.

For Russ Levy, volunteering is not just a hobby, it's his community. Photo by Britt Lê.

“It was an easy choice to include WTA in my legacy planning because it is such a big part of my life,” he said. “I feel like I’m leaving something that thousands will be able to enjoy while I’m alive and in the future.”

WTA’s passionate hiking community wants to ensure that the on-trail experiences we care so much about will be available for generations to come. And WTA can be a conduit for hikers to help ensure that their dedication to trails carries into the future.

“I love hearing about people’s adventures in the wild — the story of that first moment they knew they belonged outside, or the first time they took their children or grandchildren hiking,” said Whitney Allen, WTA’s major gift officer. “That joy of hiking and connection to the outdoors is core to our WTA community. And I love that, in my work at WTA, I can help hikers leave a lasting legacy for trails.”

Legacy gifts are special for the families who give them, and they are deeply valued by WTA. These gifts allow us to plan for the future. Estate gifts provide WTA with security to invest in new and bigger projects today, because we know there will be support to continue that work in the next 20 to 40 years.

What matters most

Lori and Monty VanderBilt are also thinking ahead for trails. Hiking has built powerful connections for them — with their family, to special places and to their community. They want to give back to the trails that have been so important with a legacy gift.

Lori and Monty have spent endless days on trails individually, as a couple and with their family — particularly in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Valley.


In 2015, Monty completed a goal of climbing all 67 peaks surrounding the valley. His affection for the Middle Fork has extended to volunteering. He’s participated in several backcountry response team trips in the area over the years and spends many days each year controlling invasive weeds to keep the valley’s native plant population as pristine as possible. Last summer, Monty and Lori participated in their first weeklong volunteer vacation on Green Mountain.

Lori, a former therapist and now a leadership coach, is dedicated to helping people and fostering relationships. She met former WTA Executive Director Karen Daubert through a hiking group, and that’s where she really got to know WTA. Lori was struck by all that WTA does to promote and protect wild places by literally building the connections between people and nature.

Lori and Monty have fostered this love for the outdoors in their two children, both now adults. They still love hiking together. When considering their legacy planning, the VanderBilts looked at what they value and hold most dear — including connections to their family and the outdoors. WTA gives them a way to ensure that their donations will be put toward the lasting cause of protecting trails and public lands that will drive positive change for generations to come. Whitney has heard from hikers that conversations with their family about leaving a legacy can be a powerful bonding experience.

“It’s an opportunity for you to begin or continue conversations about your most important values, both those you hold personally and those you hope to see expressed in your family for generations,” she said.

For the VanderBilts, supporting WTA through legacy planning is a way to give back to the hiking trails that have created lasting memories and brought their family together over the years.

“I really want our grandchildren’s grandchildren to be able to still enjoy these trails. We need organizations like WTA that do such a good job of preserving that for everybody going forward,” Lori said. “We’re making sure this will happen instead of leaving it up to someone else.”

Everyone has a legacy

“It’s such a privilege for an organization to be included in someone’s legacy planning,” Whitney said. “When I talk to people about their legacy, and how they hope to help the world even after they’re gone, they tell me a clear and vivid picture of their deepest passions, their highest hopes, greatest achievements and the most important aspects of their life. Often, organizations like WTA are listed second only to the donor’s children, which really speaks to the power of their commitment to the causes they support.”

While the word “estate” can create visions of fancy houses and private jets, legacy planning is actually for anyone, and it’s never too early to have a plan. Setting up a legacy gift can be as easy as just adding one or two sentences to your will.

Or, with a little more planning, families can take advantage of tax-friendly giving options that can stretch a legacy gift even further.

Whitney loves this work and would be happy to have a conversation with you about how to get started, even if WTA isn’t in your legacy plans. To learn more about how you can leave a legacy for trails, contact Whitney at or 206-557-3404.