By Maria Saporta
Hundreds of people turned out Wednesday night at the Mason Murer Gallery to celebrate the PATH Foundation’s 20th year anniversary.
The “cocktail buffet” was hosted by Cindy and Bill Fowler, who is chairman of the PATH Foundation; and Sarah and Jim Kennedy, who have been the most generous donors to the organization.
“It’s amazing that a small group of cyclists got together and said: ‘Let’s build a few trails before the 1996 Olympics,’” Jim Kennedy said at the event. “Today we have 170 miles of multiuse trails around the City of Atlanta and Georgia.”
Most of PATH’s original group — the founders — were present for the celebration. In addition to Fowler and Kennedy, the group included Doug Ellis, Sam Friedman, Harvey Hill, Warren Jobe and Cody Laird. Those founding members continue to serve on PATH’s board, along with the new generation which includes Sam Bacote, Jennifer Dorian and Alex Taylor.
Kennedy said his wife, Sarah, had the idea to just throw a party for their 20th birthday. “Why not have a party where you don’t ask anybody for anything; don’t ask for money; don’t have a raffle,” Kennedy quoted his wife.
Saying PATH has had great partners over the years, Kennedy then ask Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to the stage.
“Look at where you’ve gotten in 20 years,” said Reed, who also was celebrating the fact that the Atlanta BeltLine was able secure $600 million for transit as part of the proposed list of regional transportation projects. “We believe we are moving forward with a vision for our community that’s special.”
Reed said PATH was yet one more Atlanta story of reaching for a big vision and then making it a reality — stories like the Atlanta airport, MARTA and Georgia 400.
“Every time we stretch; every time we decide to do more, we are all improved and the city is improved,” Reed said.
Kennedy described PATH as a “small organization of very few employees.” The staff of less than five people consists of Ed McBrayer, PATH’s executive director who has been on board from the beginning. McBrayer credited the Kennedys for helping the organization be a success over the past two decades.
“I’m really proud of my small involvement with PATH for the past 20 years,” Kennedy said.
To that, Fowler laughed. “I love that quote — ‘my small involvement.’ Without Jim Kennedy, we would not have built 170 miles, maybe 17 miles,” Fowler said. “He’s led all of our capital campaigns.”
So far, PATH has raised $25 million from the private sector, which has been leveraged to get $75 million from the public sector. In all, PATH has developed 250 different projects.
Fowler said that once a month, the board gets together at 7:30 a.m., and more than half of the board members have served for the entire 20 years.
Fowler summed up their gathering this way: “We get together to try to figure out how we can build more trails.”