I moved to Midway in 1996 as the Refuge Manager and an enthusiastic supporter of the Refuge System. My experience as a Refuge Manager and as the Refuge Division Chief in DC had prepared me to take on the challenge of creating a Friends program at Midway. It would not be a simple task, particularly in the absence of a local community from which to build support. However, I was familiar with Dr. Molly Krival, an emeritus professor at University of Wisconsin. In her retirement, Molly had become an exceptional Friends group mentor for numerous refuges around the country. I invited Molly and her husband, Art, to visit Midway to share her mentoring skills. I did not have to ask twice.
In the Spring of 1999, Molly and Art spent a week on the refuge. She had the opportunity to observe the diverse wildlife and rich historical resources. She was also able to meet many visitors over meals in the Galley or on visits to seabird colonies and the lagoon. Several people were inspired by Molly’s unabashed enthusiasm for Midway. By the end of the week, a group of people formed who were interested in creating a Friends group for Midway. A few months later, all of the necessary non-profit documentation was approved, and on July 28, 1999 the Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge had its official start.
The original founders returned to Midway in 2000 and again in 2001. Wayne Sentman, who was there in 1999 during Molly and Art’s visit, and later leading ecotours for the non-profit Oceanic Society in 2008-2012, joined the FOMA Board in 2013, becoming the FOMA Board President in 2015. Some of the early players, Mike Logan, Ann Bell and Heidi Auman, are active on the FOMA Board today.
Since 2007, FOMA has raised more than $700,000 in support of ecological conservation and historic preservation throughout the atoll. FOMA is one of 185 Refuge Friends groups nationwide that have raised millions for conservation.
Robert Shallenberger passed away in March of 2023. His presence and wisdom on the board is irreplaceable but his legacy lives on through every human life he touched and the wildlife populations he stoically fought for and protected.