Who We Are

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Grand Haven Whale Watching is a non-affiliated group that considers itself a 401(c)p.  Although this is not an official IRS designation, it is our attempt to let people know that we have not yet made a profit and don’t intend to any time soon.  Any contribution you make to our organization will not be tax-deductible.  Even though our organization has no official standing, we will gladly take your donation once we get our PayPal account re-established.

The Story of our Founders – The VanDoosenburgs
Our founder, Mary VanDoosenburg, grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan sitting along the dunes dreaming about seeing whales in Lake Michigan.One_Fish_Two_Fish_Red_Fish_Blue_Fish_(cover_art)  Of course at that time (during the 1960s and 70s) there were no whales in Lake Michigan.  But that did not dissuade her.  She was an avid reader and her literary choices helped form her direction.  It all started with a version of the Dr Seuss book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  And grew from there.

Paddle-to-the-Sea is the book and movie that helped inspire Mary in her quest to bring the ocean to her hometown of Grand Haven.

Paddle-to-the-Sea is the book and movie that helped inspire Mary in her quest to bring the ocean to her hometown of Grand Haven.

Even though no whales existed in Lake Michigan, Mary knew it had to be possible to have whales in Lake Michigan.  In third grade, her class watched the now classic Paddle to the Sea .  This confirmed her belief that Lake Michigan was connected to the ocean and there was a pathway for sea animals to live in the Great Lakes.  By fourth grade these ideas were cemented further when Mary learned about the Chicago sewer canal connecting Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River then on to Gulf of Mexico.   It was the connection of the Great Lakes to the oceans that made Mary’s dream run wild.

As the years passed, Mary envisioned the Great Lakes filled with spectacular and exotic species like the pearly white alewives, brave asian carp, fascinating round goby and the spectacular zebra muscles.  As Mary aged, some of these dreams came true.   But making sharks, whales and octopuses part of the Lake Michigan ecosystem had kept Mary’s dream from fully becoming a reality.

In 2000 Mary met her future husband Joseph “Joey” VanDoosenburg (they had the same last name, but they were not related . . . yes, we know that is amazing and strange . . . but true).  Joey was attending one of Mary’s lectures at the public library in Marne, Michigan.  Joey had mistakenly thought he was attending a session about at home looming, but was mesmerized by Mary’s story and they were married three months later at SeaWorld in  Aurora, Ohio (just seven months after that the Ohio SeaWorld was sold to Six Flags for $110 million dollars — WOW!!).

Ever since that chance meeting in 2000, Mary and Joey have been a team working to bring the ocean to Lake Michigan.  For many years Mary and Joey made their livings by selling model ships made of preserved organic vegetables as well as singing sea shanties at maritime festivals. Up until the election of President Obama in 2008, most people simply thought they were lunatics.   However, with plans to improve recession soaked economy through the use of federal dollars, projects were being funded that previously did not have a chance.    By partnering with some other groups, Mary and Joey obtained their first federal government grant in the name of Grand Haven Ocean Adventures (soon to be known as Lake Michigan Ocean Adventures, then Grand Haven Water United and eventually Grand Haven Whale Watching as it is now known).

It has been five years . . . but now the whales are here.  Thanks to Mary and Joey, you can experience their dream as it becomes a reality.

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