Grateful in Nature + Giving Forward



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John Spencer and Ross Ridder are more than lagoon explorers—their estate planning gift will help to support us now and far into the future.

Cardiff-by-the-Sea is home for John Spencer and Ross Ridder, who have enjoyed exploring San Elijo Lagoon for more than two decades. “After being donors for years, we recently decided to include Nature Collective in our estate plan,” they share. “We recognize the importance of protecting and supporting Nature Collective for generations to come.”

John and Ross have been together since the day they met in 1990. They married in 2014 and recently celebrated their 30th anniversary together. During the pandemic, they are making outdoor exercise a priority by hiking throughout San Diego County. “We find it critical—both physically and mentally—to get out in nature and see new sights and get the heart pumping,” they add.

Ross and John are elated about the newest bridge connection from the Nature Center. John elaborates, “Once the bridges opened, we did a walk through the lagoon and back on the beach. We also enjoyed walking to Solana Beach and back through the lagoon for dinner. It was heaven!”

For years, they have joined in our interactive nature experiences. Ross adds, “The Awe Gala last year was very fun, and we actually scored some great raffle and auction items!” Ross likes to explore the lagoon early in the morning or late afternoon, he describes, “just before sunset when there is a beautiful yellow glow cast across the lagoon.” It’s when he finds that the animals are more active and that solitude soothes his journey.

They enjoyed the Sunset Tours last year, especially with the focus on edible plants. John mentions, “It was a great way to see different areas of the lagoon, meet like-minded people and learn interesting information. Walking on the trails has always been a favorite activity and the new bridges have made that even more enjoyable.”

They have both enjoyed successful careers in direct marketing, working with national corporate clients, in the firm that Ross founded 23 years ago.

As children, both of them connected early with nature in similar, yet distinct ways.

Falling in love with nature in rural Ohio, according to Ross, “was spending entire days by myself exploring the woods, ponds and creeks where we lived.” He adds, “Nature has always been a wonderful refuge for me—a place to slow down, be present, and savor the world around me.” Ross went to school at the US Air Force Academy. After serving in Space Command as a Satellite Operations Officer, he moved to San Diego.

John grew up on Long Island in New York. Jones Beach was a summer favorite, along with memorable experiences in summer camps. The greatest influence on his love of nature was exploring the Adirondack Mountains each summer as a child.

John reflects, “The slow life, quiet environment, walks in the woods and swimming were very nurturing for my soul.” He treasures the fond memories of camping with his grandfather there. John’s parents moved to San Diego 10 years ago and his dad is an active bird photographer at the lagoon.

After all the seasons of lagoon restoration, John and Ross can witness how the lagoon is thriving as restoration winds down.

“We appreciate the efforts of the Nature Collective staff, volunteers, and donors who all work together to protect and nurture such a special place,” they add.

John and Ross are nature heroes—and part of our supporters’ stories we share to inspire us all to connect, experience, and protect nature. Make a donation today!

Image L-R: Ross Ridder and John Spencer

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