RIDE FOR A CAUSE: Members of the 2010 STIHL Tour des Trees start their journey in Chicago's Millennium Park. (Photo: stihltourdestrees.org)
The 19th annual Tour des Trees rolled out of Chicago's Millennium Park on July 18, with cyclists poised to ride more than 500 miles in an effort to raise money for the Tree Research and Education Endowment (TREE) Fund. The event, which was sponsored by Stihl Inc., began 18 years ago when members of the TREE Fund sought a way to bring attention to the dire situation that many of America's urban trees and forests face. These dedicated riders pedaled more than 1,000 miles, raising funds and awareness along the way.
Today, the Tour des Trees accommodates cyclists of all ages and abilities. Sixty-two members will ride the entire 500-mile route, with up 100 more expected to join along the way for shorter stints. The tour will culminate in a one-day Ride for Research event that will take cyclists and tree lovers through one of the nation's premier research facilities, the Fermilab, before ending amid the beautiful groves of the Morton Arboretum.
The money raised by the STIHL Tour des Trees benefits the TREE Fund, an organization which encourages research to improve urban arboriculture. In the video clip below, Janet Bornancin, executive director of the TREE Fund, explains why this type of research is essential and how we can all help.
The Tour des Trees isn't all business — it's about fun and camaraderie, as well. At the ride's kick-off event, the "It's Ours to Save" concert featuring Chuck Leavell of the Rolling Stones and David Spero of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the room was filled with the tour's distinctive orange cycling jerseys. Riders of all ages were gathered together sharing experiences from past events, laughing over fond memories, and talking about their efforts to raise awareness.
Kristin Wild of the TREE Fund, who is riding in her 11th tour, spoke about passing through the town of Galena, Ill., on a previous trip. "We actually planted a tree there, in Galena," she said. "This year we'll be visiting that same park again, to plant another tree and to revisit the older one. Hopefully it has done well, been nicely cared for, and has added to the beauty, shade, and the cooling of that city."
When asked what she looks forward to most about the Tour des Trees, Kristin smiles and says, "There are two things: The people are fantastic and we have a lot of fun, but it's also the scenery, getting to be out in this really beautiful countryside. It's America and it's really so cool to be able to see."
Another tour veteran, Doreen Crenshaw from Indianapolis, spoke about making friends on the tour. "People come from all over the world," she said, "And they're so passionate about this." She recounted riding in the rain on a previous tour and how the riders kept one another's spirits up.
"People should get involved. It's really just a lot of fun. You don't have to ride the whole distance, you just have to have fun."
Roger Phelps of Stihl agrees that the tour is a great time, but reminds us that it's also meant to address a serious problem. At the tour's kick-off event, Phelps said, "It's really about the theme of this evening — It's Ours to Save. If folks could just change one thing that they do, whether it's purchasing another kind of power equipment, or not letting the water run, or not buying bottled water, or whatever it is, just pick something and do it because it truly is ours to save."
As for what the tour's title sponsor, Stihl Inc., is doing to help, Phelps says, "As a company, we really believe that it's our responsibility to follow a path of socially responsible environmental stewardship. We know that our equipment is used to care for the land, but it's our responsibility to manufacture and design equipment that is easier on the environment."
If you'd like to join the 2010 STIHL Tour des Trees, it's not too late. You can register on the tour's website to ride, make a donation to help the TREE Fund meet its goal, or get more information on future events.
Be sure to check back soon for more on the American Forest Foundation and the "It's Ours to Save" concert event, including interviews with Chuck Leavell of the Rolling Stones and actor Matthew Modine.
Photos: Al Gilens/2009 Tour des Trees
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