Tracy Davids, vice-president of the Wild South Board of Directors, presents Ben Prater with the inaugural Kayah Gaydish Award. (Photo: Wild South)
Ben Prater, a 2002 Catawba alumnus and former member of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, received the Kayah Gaydish Award at the 8th annual Wild South Green Gala on May 7.
The highlight of the annual banquet — where the Roosevelt-Ashe Conservation Awards are given out to individuals and organizations that have exhibited leadership in conservation in the South during the past year — was the new award honoring Gaydish. This year, Wild South — the nonprofit that works to inspire people to enjoy, value and protect the wild character and natural legacy of the South — created the Kayah Gaydish Award to "honor an individual who has advanced Wild South's mission and vision and has demonstrated the same dedication Kayah had for inspiring others to protect our wild places."
Jennifer Kendall "Kayah" Gaydish, 36, an Asheville conservationist, expert rock climber and mother of two teenagers, had been working as the Linville Gorge Wilderness Ranger for Wild South since 2013. She was promoted to North Carolina conservation coordinator in October 2015 and was on a rock climbing trip with friends in Virginia in December when she died in a 50-foot fall.
In Gaydish's honor, Wild South created the Kayah Gaydish Award to recognize others who carry on her commitment to move others to action through inspiration. The award is for an individual who has advanced Wild South's vision and mission and has demonstrated the same passion Kayah had for inspiring others to protect our wild places.
Prater, who led Wild South's conservation programs for 11 years, was the inaugural recipient of the award. Prater now works as the Southeast Program Director at Defenders of Wildlife, based in Asheville. During the event, it was said that his work helped Wild South grow and blossom to be the effective and passionate organization that it is today.
"I'm tremendously grateful and honored to have received this recognition in honor of Kayah's tradition of caring and stewarding wild places and inspiring others to do the same," Prater said on accepting the award.
The Roosevelt Ashe Awards are the only major recognition and awards ceremony for environmental conservation in the South, said Wild South Director Pat Byington. “This is an opportunity to honor conservation leaders from around the South for their dedication, commitment and accomplishments in their fields. It is truly an inspiring process that Wild South is proud to lead."
To learn more about Wild South, visit www.wildsouth.org/greengala.