The Raptor Center is a family adventure for Brian Hughes

When their daughter dissected an owl pellet in elementary school, Brian Hughes and his wife were intrigued. She brought a pamphlet home from school that afternoon that said the owl pellet came from a local nonprofit organization, Carolina Raptor Center. Relatively new to the area, Brian and his family knew they had to check it out.

Right in their backyard in Huntersville, NC, the Raptor Center became a weekend destination for Brian’s family, who have appreciated nature and enjoyed being outside ever since they moved to the region in 2007. Brian valued the Raptor Center’s focus on environmental education, and saw it as a great place to take his kids to learn about different kinds birds of prey and conservation.

So, when given the opportunity to join the board through the Arts and Science Council’s Cultural Leadership Training Program in 2012, he gladly accepted. At the time, Brian was just looking for a way to get involved and give back to his community. Little did he know, he would soon be part of a transformative project for the Raptor Center: the Our Quest Campaign.

“I don’t even remember what we talked about at board meetings before,” he laughed. “Since my second year on the board, everything has been about preparation and execution for this campaign – partnerships, planning, visioning… it has been an incredible opportunity.”

Brian, a Smart Grid Planning Manager for Duke Energy, has served on the Raptor Center’s Board of Directors for more than five years now. Brian’s service on the Board of Directors is also an expression of the close, ongoing engagement between the Raptor Center and Duke Energy. He took the seat of another Duke Energy employee when he joined in 2012, and has enjoyed watching the relationship deepen over the past five years. Duke Energy’s leadership gift to the Our Quest Campaign was the “perfect opportunity to join forces with the Raptor Center, make a difference in conservation on a local scale and have a positive environmental impact.”

As Board Chair in 2016-2017, Brian played a vital leadership role in the launch of the public phase of the Our Quest Campaign. He also joined past board members and chairs, community members and other local leaders as part of the Our Quest Campaign Cabinet.

Participating on the Campaign Cabinet has been eye-opening for Brian. “I bring the insider, board perspective,” he said. “But it has been really neat to hear what the Raptor Center and the Our Quest Campaign will mean to the broader community from external perspectives.”

Our Quest will support the design and development of a state-of-the-art interpretive environmental education facility, the Quest Adventure Center. Facility features will include technology-enabled indoor education and program spaces, expanded learning facilities, a new raptor medical center with increased capacity for care and learning labs, and a 3/4-mile Raptor Trail system with interactive exhibits and a large amphitheater for flight shows and performances.

“Obviously the new facility will be incredible, but more importantly, the new programming, the way visitors are engaged and the level of interaction with birds will be what we’ve envisioned for years,” Brian said. “Our Quest is a stepping stone into the future and will advance us to the next level of what Carolina Raptor Center can be.”