Announcing Our 2024 Wavemaker Honorees

May 2, 2024

We are excited to unveil the inaugural honorees of the Alliance for the Great Lakes 2024 Wavemaker Awards. As we launch this esteemed recognition for the first time, we celebrate the outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations who have been instrumental in conserving and elevating the Great Lakes. These Wavemakers have not only dedicated themselves to our cause but have also inspired a wave of proactive engagement across our communities. Their efforts embody the deep commitment required to safeguard the environmental integrity of our cherished Great Lakes region. Join us in honoring their enduring impact at the 2024 Great Blue Benefit, themed “Celebrating Wavemakers: Bridging Communities and Conservation.”

Meet the 2024 Wavemakers (in Alphabetical Order)

Gerald (Jerry) W. Adelmann
President Emeritus of Openlands

Jerry Adelmann has been a pivotal figure in conservation since he joined Openlands in 1980, coordinating groundbreaking projects like the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. His leadership has resulted in significant conservation achievements including the creation of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and the preservation of the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve.

Michael S. Davidson
President and CEO of Openlands

Michael Davidson, with over 25 years in mission-driven leadership, has significantly shaped environmental strategies in the Chicago region. His notable contributions include leading initiatives that integrate community engagement with environmental sustainability, advancing urban conservation and local food system projects.

Mary Peterson
Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes Volunteer

Mary Peterson has dedicated over a decade to the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes, coordinating volunteer efforts and enhancing visitor experiences. Her leadership in volunteer coordination and community engagement has been instrumental in maintaining and protecting the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Brenda Santoyo
Illinois Water Justice Coalition member, and Water Justice Program Manager at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO)

Brenda Santoyo advocates for clean water and healthy living conditions in Chicago’s underserved communities. Her leadership in the Water Justice Program at LVEJO has been crucial in shaping policies and practices for environmental justice and sustainability.

Iyanna Simba
Illinois Water Justice Coalition member, and City Programs Director at the Illinois Environmental Council

Iyanna Simba leads citywide initiatives at the Illinois Environmental Council, focusing on water policy and environmental advocacy in Chicago. Her efforts in coalition building and policy development have been key to advancing environmental justice and sustainable urban practices.

Asiana Spaw
Documentary Filmmaker
: Microplastics: Not a Small Problem
Asiana Spaw has used her filmmaking to spotlight environmental issues, particularly microplastic pollution in the Great Lakes. Her documentary “Microplastics: Not a Small Problem” has raised awareness and prompted discussions on sustainable environmental practices.

Join Us in Celebration

On Thursday, June 13, 2024 our Great Blue Benefit takes place at the beautiful Columbia Yacht Club in Chicago, Illinois. This special event is not just an opportunity to recognize the incredible efforts of our honorees but also a time to enjoy the camaraderie of those who share our commitment.

Supporting Our Mission
All proceeds from the Great Blue Benefit will directly support the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ ongoing initiatives to ensure our waters are clean, safe, and accessible for all generations.