DARIEN — It’s a warm and sunny spring day. Children are playing soccer in the Cherry Lawn Park fields and people are walking on the surrounding trails. Naturally, Leila Wetmore, executive director of the Darien Nature Center, wants to go outside.

“Isn’t it nice? I’ll bring out Einstein,” the 54-year-old said, referring to the gray-and-white bunny that is 9 months old. Nearing two years at the helm of the nature center, Wetmore knows all the animals who live at the center by name and their unique characteristics.

“The foremost thing on our mind, here at the nature center, is the safety of our kids and happiness of our 40 animals,” the Manhattan native said.

For Wetmore, helping others has always been her focus. While attending St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., Wetmore was influenced by a professor who had left South Africa at a time when the racist policy of apartheid was still being enforced.

“I was sure I was going to be an international lawyer and save the world,” said Wetmore, who graduated St. Lawrence University in 1986 with a degree in international politics.

What some would call confusion during their early post-graduate years, Wetmore saw as a fun time to explore different opportunities and professions. “It’s kind of cool to try stuff, being young and all,” Wetmore said.

Though she worked in industries ranging from corporate law to editorial writing at Conde Nast’s Glamour, she was determined about pursuing one thing.

“I wanted to be an active member of society; I wanted to make some type of contribution,” Wetmore said.

One of Wetmore’s projects was working at a Planned Parenthood office in New York City in the early 1990s. At the women’s health organization, Wetmore played a leadership role in fundraising and advocacy.

“That’s where it really sunk in, my passion to serve,” Wetmore said.

With a newfound interest in fundraising, Wetmore followed one of her mentors from the organization to Lenox Hill Hospital, where she was director of special events.

“I’ve really looked up to my mentors; there are so many people who are wiser and have so much to give,” Wetmore said.

Headed back into the center, two young children are playing with the animals, supervised by Nina Miller, a program staffer.

“She’s one of my mentors here at the nature center, and someone from whom I’m always learning,” Wetmore said.

With summer coming up, Wetmore is looking forward to spending more time outside and seeing more people visit the center, which she calls an “oasis” for everyone in town.

“One of our next big events is ‘Down on the Farm’ coming up in May, and we love when the kids go there,” Wetmore said.



More Information

‘Down on the Farm’

To learn more about the Darien Nature Center, visit: dariennaturecenter.org.

The “Down on the Farm” event will take place May 26 at the Darien Nature Center. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $10, with the drawing the same day at 1 p.m.