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Toyota's Million Dollar Donation Enhances Environmental Education

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Date: June 26, 2008
Contact: Bob Miller, (865) 436-1207

Hybrid vehicles and $1 million to emphasize science education and promote environmental leadership
Toyota and Great Smoky Mountains National Park have partnered to foster environmental education through Toyota’s contribution of $1 million and three hybrid vehicles to America’s most visited national park. In support of raising environmental awareness, the donation will enhance and develop a variety of new science education initiatives for K-12 students, teachers and families to encourage careers in science and service-learning opportunities.

The donation, which was made through Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the park’s non-profit fundraising partner, is part of Toyota’s $5 million contribution in support of five national parks and the National Park Foundation to enhance environmental leadership and educational programs at parks around the country.

"Toyota and Great Smoky Mountains National Park have a shared goal in enhancing environmental education and advancing the understanding and conservation of the park’s natural resources," said Dian Ogilvie, senior vice president of Toyota Motor North America. "Toyota is proud to support Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its commitment to promoting science education and developing future environmental leaders."

Through Toyota’s grant, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will develop a variety of science education opportunities to enhance its existing educational programs and introduce new specialized programming to promote careers in science. Plans geared toward youth programming encompass the implementation of new Junior Ranger programs such as "Let’s be a Scientist", "Be a GPS Guru", and "Even You Can Play the Hog Fiddle" (Appalachian music). The Kindergarten - 8th grade Parks as Classrooms program will be updated with fresh curriculum, tapping into new technologies in the form of podcasts and earthcaching. Additionally, the funding will support a new "Not-So-Junior Ranger" program for visitors, ages 13 and higher, along with in-park teacher and student enrichment workshops at the Park’s new Twin Creek’s Science and Education Center, the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center in North Carolina and the partner-operated Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in Tennessee. Besides the educational programs, funding will also support the addition of four temporary staff members to develop program enhancements and engage the public in new opportunities for science and environmental learning.

"Throughout the National Park Service, we have become concerned about research that shows a growing disconnect of the public, and especially younger Americans, from the natural environment," said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "With its focus on our 6- to 12-year-old Junior Rangers, high school age students and the education community, we see Toyota’s grant as a powerful tool to help engage the next generation’s interest in science and the environment."

Toyota selected Great Smoky Mountains National Park as its grant recipient for its environmental educational programs and dedication to developing environmental stewards.

"These donations reflect Toyota’s strong commitment to conservation and education, and we are very grateful for their support," said Jim Hart, President of Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "With people turning more of their attention to environmental concerns these days, the timing of Toyota’s support could not be better."

Other national parks receiving Toyota funding include Everglades National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Yosemite National Park. A total of 23 vehicles will also be donated to the national parks.

About Toyota: Toyota (NYSE: TM) established operations in the United States in 1957 and currently operates 10 manufacturing plants, with another under construction in Mississippi. Toyota is committed to being a good corporate citizen in the communities where it does business and believes in supporting programs with long-term sustainable results. Through its corporate initiatives, manufacturing operations and philanthropy, Toyota supports numerous organizations across the country, focusing on education, the environment and safety. In 2007, Toyota contributed more than $56 million to philanthropic programs in the U.S. For more information on Toyota's commitment to improving communities nationwide, visit www.toyota.com/community.

About Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an 800 square mile natural refuge which was established by Congress in 1934 to preserve and protect the area’s natural and historic resources for the enjoyment and education of future generations. With over 9 million annual visitors, the Smokies is America’s most visited national park. These millions of visitors come virtually throughout the year to see its lushly forested mountain scenery, fish its 700 miles of streams, and hike its 800 miles of trails. They are also drawn to the Park’s 5 historic districts where over 70 historic cabins, churches and barns are preserved as a "time capsule" of mid-19th and early 20th century mountain culture. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/grsm.

About Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park assists the National Park Service in its mission to preserve and protect Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and public awareness and providing volunteers for needed projects. Since 1993, Friends of the Smokies has raised more than $24 million to assist with park needs in the areas of environmental education, natural resource protection, wildlife research and conservation, historic preservation, and visitor services. The money that Friends of the Smokies gives to the park comes from many sources. Individuals become members, make memorial and honorarium gifts, provide for the park in their wills, attend special fundraising events, place contributions in Friends’ in-park donation boxes, or purchase specialty license tags for their vehicles in Tennessee and North Carolina. Corporations sponsor events, give gifts of goods or services, join as business members, or make outright gifts. Foundations make grants to Friends of the Smokies for general support and special park needs. It all adds up to more than $1 million in direct support for Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year. For more information, visit www.friendsofthesmokies.org.

Did You Know?

Marbled salamanders are one of 30 salamander species native to the park.

There are at least 30 different species of salamanders in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This gives the Smokies the distinction of having the most diverse salamander population anywhere in the world and has earned the park the nickname “Salamander Capital of the World.” More...