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School Community Tree Challenge Launches

A new community initiative that challenges London and Middlesex students to plant trees in their communities was launched today at London Catholic Central School. A gathering of supporters, including London MPPs, members of London City Council, students, sponsors, and partners joined to celebrate the launch by planting a tree.

School Community Tree Challenge launch

The School Community Tree Challenge will inspire school teams to develop and implement tree planting plans for their school communities. Through the Challenge, students, teachers, and parents will promote tree planting in schoolyards and surrounding neighbourhoods, including parks, residential yards, and other areas.

The project is a formal collaborative with Middlesex London Health Unit, Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, London Catholic and District School Board, Thames Valley District School Board, and ReForest London.

This five-year initiative seeks to involve 100 schools in London and Middlesex County in planting over 25,000 trees. Organizers hope to safeguard and restore ecosystems by involving, teaching, and inspiring 30,000 students and 50,000 adults through student outreach into the community, motivating people who may not be traditionally part of the environmental sector. Through their involvement in the program, students will build their knowledge about the environment and develop community leadership skills.

The program is funded through two major grants to ReForest London, the lead organization in the collaborative. The Ontario Trillium Foundation has awarded a three-year, $188,900 grant to support the program.
School Challenge launch

“I’m delighted that our government is helping ReForest London and its partners engage students and encourage them to plant more trees in our neighbourhoods,” said Deb Matthews MPP, London North Centre, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and Deputy Premier. “This grant for this terrific program will help educate young people about the importance of trees and will set a wonderful example about how important it is to take care of our environment and give back to our community.”

TD is supporting London High Schools in the Challenge through a $40,000 grant.

“TD is pleased to support the School Community Tree Challenge. Through this initiative, together we can help create a healthier urban forest and engage young environmental stewards as champions of the Forest City,” said Howard Thompson Senior Vice President TD Canada Trust, Western Ontario Region.  “Each participating school will plant a minimum of 150 trees – which we feel is a fitting number given that this year TD is celebrating 150 years of service in London.”

The five groups collaborating in the Challenge bring different strengths to the initiative to make it a robust and effective program:

“London District Catholic School Board is pleased to be working with ReForest London and our partners in the School Community Tree Challenge,” said Linda Staudt, Director, London District Catholic School Board. “This is an opportunity for us to promote and celebrate the wonder of creation and a reminder that we are called to be stewards of creation. As Pope Francis has reminded us, it is important that we work together to embrace an attitude of wonder and contemplation as we care for the earth. In caring for creation, we acknowledge the loving gifts of our Creator!”

Steve Sauder from Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, said, "The UTRCA is pleased to help implement the School Community Tree Challenge. Involving youth in tree planting is part of our 67-year conservation legacy. A huge thank you goes to the Ontario Trillium Foundation and project partners for helping to plant and grow this initiative."
 
"ReForest London is both excited and pleased to be leading this new collaborative initiative together with the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority, Middlesex London Health Unit, and two school boards to bring the benefits of trees to Londoners through their neighbourhood schools," said Mitch Schurmans, Board Chair of ReForest London. "We are very grateful for the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation and TD Bank for their investment and support of this important community program."

“It’s natural for the Health Unit to be involved in ReForest London’s efforts to bring more trees to our community,” says Iqbal Kalsi, Manager of Environmental Health with the Middlesex-London Health Unit and the Health Unit’s lead with ReForest London. “From making our air cleaner, to providing shade and improving the vitality of our neighbourhoods, trees are an economical and ecologically-friendly way to boost everyone’s health.”

"Thames Valley District School Board is pleased to be part of this collaborative greening challenge," said Valerie Nielsen, Superintendent of Student Achievement, Thames Valley District School Board.  "Beyond our recognition of Earth Day, this initiative is another wonderful opportunity to engage and empower our youth in environmental stewardship in their own community."

The program will be launched in London and Middlesex schools in May, and tree planting projects will begin this spring and in the 2014-2015 school year.

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