Cleo Winters is raising three young boys in the City of Richmond. As a mother and pediatrician, she knows how important it is for her children to experience nature and stay active, and she has found a perfect way to provide those opportunities for her sons near their urban home. By the time Winters moved to Richmond in 2004, she was already familiar with one of the city’s greatest resources for outdoor adventures – Maymont, a 100-acre estate central to city neighborhoods.
Maymont was given to the City of Richmond by James and Sallie Dooley who lived there from 1893 to 1925. The Dooleys built a 33-room mansion on the property and later added outbuildings and Italian and Japanese gardens. The Dooleys’ generosity has inspired other families through the years to enhance and preserve Maymont, leading to the addition of wildlife exhibits, a children’s farm, and the Robins Nature & Visitor Center – complete with interactive exhibits, playful river otters, and other creatures of the James River – as well as the preservation of many of its historic treasures.
Today, this special place is a destination for hundreds of thousands of visitors, and it annually serves more than 10,000 children with environmental and historical school programs. Maymont is still owned by the City of Richmond, but since 1975, it has been managed by the non-profit Maymont Foundation which seeks to raise more than $3 million each year through donations, memberships, events, and programs to maintain the property.
The Winters family, and many others from Greater Richmond, visit the estate to look for the bears, jump across the stepping stones, and roll down the grassy hills. In addition, Winters enrolls her children in Maymont’s Summer Discovery Camps every year, giving them exciting experiences to remember for a lifetime.
“As a parent, I think the camps are great as they give a wonderful mix of education and fun with nature hikes, super arts and crafts, and special visits with the animals,” Winters said. “The boys come home tired and grubby but with great stories of their time at Maymont.”
Maymont is also a huge part of family life for Mason Mills, Shawn Freude, and their two sons. Mills and Freude both visited in their youth and have fond memories of long walks there as a couple. With their children, they look to Maymont for inspiration and a Way to explore their world.
“We love that nature and history are combined to create a fantastic family experience,” Mills said. “We believe in supporting this beautiful place and are members of Maymont because we enjoy the program offerings, rely on the high standards of the grounds, and support the overall mission to keep the estate preserved and open for all to visit.”
Says Bob Halbruner, director of development for Maymont, “The Dooleys gave an extraordinary gift when they gave Maymont to the people of Richmond. Their legacy lives on in the community’s support of this beloved attraction, making it possible for Maymont to enrich the lives of its guests now and for generations to come.”