Interview with Tour des Trees and The TREE Fund

photo credit: Helen Steussy

I am always happy to hear about organizations, not-for profit groups, and individuals working towards the greater good. Seeing people work together to make our world a better place in some way is truly inspirational.

I am pleased to have Mary DiCarlo, Fund Development Specialist for the TREE Fund with us today for an interview.

Me: What is STIHL Tour des Trees and how did it start?

Mary: The STIHL Tour des Trees is the signature fundraising event of the Tree Research & Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund), a 501(c)3 foundation with headquarters in Naperville, Ill. The TREE Fund is the largest non-governmental source of funding for tree research and arboriculture education in North America, providing research grants, support for educational programs for school-age children, and scholarships for aspiring tree care professionals.

The first Tour was the brainchild of a small group of arborists who were as crazy about cycling as they were about trees. They decided to ride their bikes from Seattle to Oakland, Calif., (a journey of more than 1,000 miles or so) in seven days to draw attention to the need for tree research and to raise money for the International Society of Arboriculture’s (ISA) Research Trust. Thirteen arborists joined the first Tour in 1992, and raised $93,000 for research. At the end of the week the consensus among the participants was “Let’s do that again!”

Me: How many people participate and what is required to participate?

Mary: Since thenISA’s Research Trust has evolved into the TREEFund and the STIHL Tour des Trees has evolved into America’s largest fundraiser for tree research and arboriculture education. STIHL became the event’s title sponsor in 2009, and you no longer have to be quite so crazy to participate.

This year’s STIHL Tour des Trees has already attracted more than 100 cyclists, who commit to raising $3,500 each for the privilege of riding 585 miles (rain or shine) through Oregon in August. These are SERIOUS tree enthusiasts, and their energy is infectious.

Me: How much has the STIHL Tour des Trees raised for the cause?

Mary: The Tour, which will celebrate its 20th Anniversary in 2012, averages 500 miles of cycling during the weeklong event, and its itinerary is generally mapped with ISA’s annual conference at its termination point. Every ride is unique, and the Tour has raised more than $5 million for tree research and education since its inception in 1992.

Me: What message do you think STIHL Tour des Trees sends?

Mary: The Tour’s mission, in addition to raising money for the TREE Fund, is to raise public awareness of the importance of research to the health and well being of the trees in urban settings. The Tour makes frequent stops to plant trees and connect with the residents of the communities it travels through.

Educational programs for kids are a highlight, and we’re fortunate to have a gifted educator/entertainer in our midst. Warren Hoselton, a.k.a. Professor Elwood Pricklethorn (Arborifessor Extraordinaire) is a certified arborist and a veteran Tour rider who has a knack for connecting with kids, and connecting kids with trees. Our message to kids and adults is that the trees in our communities are important to all of us, each of us relies on trees for clean air, clean water, shade and quality of life, and each of us has a stake in keeping our urban forest healthy and growing to full maturity.

In 2011 crown sponsor Bartlett Tree Experts funded the purchase of 500 copies of “I Can Name 50 Trees Today!” a Cat in the Hat Learning Library book by Bonnie Worth. Copies of the book were distributed to schools and public libraries along the Tour route.

Me: What message would you like to leave with Prairie Eco-Thrifter readers?

Mary: Many of our cyclists return each year to reunite with their “tree family” and explore a new part of the world on their bikes. On average, two-thirds of our participants are veterans of the event. They are people who care deeply about trees and love to cycle, and they’re willing to ride 500 miles to make a difference in the future of the urban forest. Not everyone who cares about trees is able to make that kind of commitment, but you can support their efforts by making a donation to the STIHL Tour des Trees or sponsoring a rider. Healthy trees are rooted in research.

Me: What is the route for this year’s event?

Mary: This year, cyclists will be challenged with a 585-mile loop throughOregon, a “life list” ride that will showcase the region’s iconic scenery and diverse eco-zones. The Pacific coast, the Columbia River Gorge, vineyards, high desert andMt.Hoodwill provide spectacular backdrops for a week of tree plantings, educational programs, community engagement and fun.

Me: Thank you for your time today Mary and I wish your organization and all of the riders this year the best success.

PS: Don’t forget to check out the new “Share Your Voice” section on the PET homepage.


Interview with Tour des Trees and The TREE Fund — 6 Comments

  1. It warms my heart to learn that there exists an organization that loves tress as much as I do. It’s so sad how we’ve evolved into a society that no longer seems to value its forests and nature overall. I wish the TREE Fund all the best in its future endeavor to raise more awareness about the importance of tree health and development.

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