Tour des Trees 2020: Rollin’ in Place (UPDATE!)

A couple of weeks back, I publicly stated my commitment to support my former employer, TREE Fund, by participating in their Anno Virum “Rollin’ In Place” version of the organization’s long-standing alpha community engagement and fundraising event, the Tour des Trees. I’ve ridden in five Tours, and they were truly wonderful, in many, many regards that I’ve written about at length here multiple times before. (Here’s last year’s report). While I will certainly miss the spirit of community that defines in-person Tours, I sincerely applaud TREE Fund for taking the safe and sane approach to the big event this year. I’m glad to do my part, where I can, however it can help them. So motivated, I defined my goal for this year’s activity as follows:

I’m sticking with cycling as my activity, with a 321 mile goal, ridden out on the road, like a normal Tour. While I can’t get the climbing experience in Iowa that I would have gotten in Colorado, I do want to replicate the daily endurance aspect of the Tour, so my objective is reach 321 miles in six rides (a typical Tour week), ideally including one century (100+ mile) ride. We are moving from Iowa on October 22, so I intend to complete the miles and the related fundraising before then.

I’m pleased to provide the following status report, updated after a solid (but cold, and windy) ride today of 70.2 miles:

That’s a screen cap from my fundraising page. You can get to it by clicking the image. Hint hint hint. For the record, I’m at ~61% of my cycling goal after three rides, averaging around 65 miles per excursion, all on real roads, in real-world conditions. Just like the Tour. I’m at ~51% of my fundraising goal, and would like to see those two metrics running in parallel. I’d be most grateful for your support, as would TREE Fund. Every gift counts, especially this year, when so many sources of funding are drying up or being redirected in the face of the pandemic and its related economic tumult.

Throughout the years that I served as TREE Fund’s President and CEO, I wrote boodles of words and articles explaining what we did and why it mattered and why donors should fund us. I think my favorite of those various fundraising pieces was one called “The Trees We Live With.” I reproduce its text below to help frame TREE Fund’s work, if you’re not already familiar with it. Their mission is important. I’m to glad to continue supporting them as I am able. I’d be deeply appreciative if you’d join me by making a contribution to my campaign on their behalf. Here’s the link again. Thanks for your consideration and support, as always. It means a lot, and it makes a difference.

THE TREES WE LIVE WITH

When friends and new acquaintances outside of the tree care industry hear that I am the “President of TREE Fund,” they almost always express enthusiasm for my work, although the conversation is often a little more complicated that you might expect, e.g.:

Friend: “Oh cool, I love trees! TREE Fund is the one that does tree planting events, right?”

Me: “No, that’s not us.”

Friend: “Oh, so you’re protecting the Amazon Rain Forest, right?”

Me: “No, not really, sorry.”

Friend: “Ummm . . . so you’re the organization that buys up land and puts it into trust so it stays forever wild, right?”

Me: “No, we don’t do that either.”

And so on, and so forth, sometimes for a few more rounds. In trying to cut to the chase politely on such conversations without diminishing people’s enthusiasm for my work with trees, the phrase I’ve found that seems to most quickly make their eyes light up with realization is when I say: “We fund research to benefit the trees we live with.”

People seem to embrace “the trees we live with” quickly and intuitively. These are the trees in our backyards, our street trees, the ones our children climb, the trees that shade our schools. They’re the formal arrangements that make our civic architecture more grand, the little glades that provide green backdrops to our developments, that killer oak along the fairway that costs us a stroke every time we slice a tee shot into it, the canopy above the cemeteries we visit on Veterans and Memorial Days, and so many others. The “trees we live with” are a part of our everyday lives and experiences. TREE Fund supports the science needed to sustain them.

I know, of course, that the benefits of our research and education programs reach well beyond that simple rubric. But getting people outside our industry to think actively about the myriad choices and decisions that can surround a single familiar tree over its lifetime is a great first step in helping them understand not only what TREE Fund does, but also the benefits that professional tree care services anchored in rigorous science can provide.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t appreciate “the trees we live with.” Bringing our work home for people that way can help us open the circle to new friends and supporters, one conversation at a time.

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