With a profound love for the natural world, Tiffany Elise Staelin never met a mountain she didn't cherish, a plant she didn't admire or an animal that didn't amaze her.
At the age of three, she strapped on a pair of skis with her brother Tyler, embraced the sport, and her love of the mountains began. As a little girl playing soccer, she would wander off the field to explore a butterfly floating by. While receiving her bachelor's degree as a student at Colgate University, she frequently initiated camping and hiking trips with her friends in the wilderness areas of Upstate New York. While working on a master's degree at the Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, WY, she opened the world of nature to children with educational hikes in the mountains.
The Staelin Family created a legacy for their daughter Tiffany through a Donor Advised Fund at the Foundation. The fund celebrates Tiffany’s life and supports her unending passion for nature. Learn how to establish your own Donor Advised Fund.
Her grandparents helped develop her deep love for the outdoors. Her maternal grandmother took her on exploring adventures in the metro parks woods and at the family farm. Her paternal grandmother guided her through books to discover the scientific aspects of the environment.
Her parents, Steve and Susan (Penny) Staelin encouraged and supported her with unconditional love as she pursued her commitment to the natural environment around her.
Tiffany was an expert in wilderness expeditions and led groups of teens throughout the Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Alaska. She studied the Barrier Reef in Australia and lived in Hong Kong where she developed an environmental education curriculum for the school system.
While in Asia, Tiffany hiked the terrains of Korea, China, Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore with her fiancé, T. J. Filip.
Tiffany was an environmental consultant in Boston who served the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the Clean Water and Clean Air Act. Later she taught high school science in Philadelphia while continuing work on her master's degree at the University of Pennsylvania.
"She found true solace in open spaces and loved flora and fauna of all kinds. The mountains always called her," recalls her mother.
"Tiff had an incredible passion for everything she ever did. She lived all over the world and touched so many people with her acts of kindness and love for the environment and wildlife," adds her father.
At the age of 31, Tiffany and her fiancé set a date for this summer to exchange their marriage vows in Toledo. To prepare for the wedding, she and her mother traveled to New York City last October.
"Tiffany called it 'Tiff and Mom's Big Adventure.' The first day we had a wonderful time racing through the city. By the time we had dinner, we had accomplished our mission of the wedding planning. The second day we were just going to have fun," says Penny.
That night Tiffany died in her sleep … but her legacy lives on.
Devastated by her sudden death, her family took a walk in a park near their Ottawa Hills home to try to find some peace and understanding. It was on that walk that her father decided the family needed to do something to keep Tiffany's passionate mission alive.
"I suggested we establish a fund in Tiff's name. The family immediately embraced the concept," says her father.
As the retired managing partner of Ernst & Young, Steve was acquainted with the Toledo Community Foundation and felt it could help the family create a legacy for Tiffany.
The family contacted Foundation Board Member Susan Morgan about their interest. With the help of Foundation staff, within two days they established the Tiffany Elise Staelin Fund, a Donor Advised Fund.
The Fund is designed to support Tiffany's interests and keep her spirit alive. It will support organizations that encourage, promote and support projects and programs benefiting environmental and wildlife conservation, education and research.
The Staelin family, which includes their son Dr. Stephen Tyler Staelin and his wife Katie, along with Tiffany's fiancé, will make recommendations on grants to be given from the fund. The Foundation staff will help them identify and screen organizations they may want to support.
"We feel the fund is a wonderful way to involve the family and her fiancé in supporting Tiffany's love for nature. It is a very powerful way for all of us to stay connected to her. We are committed to her quest" her father adds.
"The Foundation was compassionate and sensitive in handling our needs to honor Tiffany. By creating the Fund with the Foundation, all the burdens of day-to-day administrative requirements are taken off our shoulders and we can focus on the purpose of the gift," he says.
"Tiffany led by example. Her gentle grace and amazing humility endeared her to people all over the world. She always reached out to help others. She was so very committed to nature. For her, preservation of the environment was not a trend; it was a way of life. She was an amazing person … a gift to everyone whose life she touched," concludes her mother.