Meet the Young Friends Council Chair
Interview with Ryan Furniss

The Young Friends Program of the Missouri Botanical Garden is led by a 50-member council of leadership volunteers. The Young Friends Council was formed in 2008 and is responsible for the creation and support of events like Fest-of-Ale, Trivia Night—Garden Style, and Garden Gallop. They also support major initiatives of the Garden, such as the Garden for the World campaign.

Ryan Furniss, Attorney with the Furniss Law Firm LLC, became the fifth chair of the Council in July 2017. Here’s a little more about him.

When did you start visiting the Garden?

I started visiting the Garden soon after moving to St. Louis in 2000. Like many, I think my first visit was for a festival, where I had the opportunity to see what the Garden had to offer. My parents first visited 52 years ago on their honeymoon trip to St. Louis.

How did you learn about the Young Friends Program?

My wife and I enjoyed regularly going to various charitable events, and several years ago we decided to check out Fest-of-Ale. Beer in the Garden; what more do you need? We loved it and decided to learn more about the Young Friends Council.  

What do you like most about serving on the Council?

When I first joined, the best thing was the "behind-the-scenes" information and tours about the Garden. Now, the best thing is knowing that my work and efforts are going directly to help a place that my children absolutely love—the Children's Garden.

What do you think the Garden brings to our community?

I think the Garden brings different things to different people. I essentially grew up on a farm in rural Illinois. My grandparents both had large vegetable and flower gardens, and much of my time was spent in the outdoors. So for me, the Garden gives me an ability to share my love of the outdoors and the environment with my children. For others, it can be a simple "escape" from the city or a place for fine educational programs. For the City itself, the Garden brings the worldwide prestige of having an international institution that is on the cutting edge of botanical exploration and conservation.

Is there anything else we should know?

My favorite events and parts of the Garden have changed over the years. I started with Japanese Festival, moved on to Fest-of-Ale, but now my favorite events are all child-related. We love Eggstravaganza and the children's area during Best of Missouri Market; my children can feed llamas, milk cows, and pot plants. My son loves the Garden so much that we had his 3rd birthday party in the Children's Garden. 

While my favorite events and parts of the Garden have changed over the 17 years that I have been visiting, the Garden continues to change and grow with me. The Garden and its staff are doing an incredible job maintaining high-level programming and research. The Young Friends Council gives me an ability to in some small part aid the future of this amazing institution. I really cannot say enough about the Garden and am truly honored to lead the Young Friends this year.