This past Arbor Day weekend, Nebraska’s youth participated in a Tree-A-Thon and collectively planted more than 12,700 trees in more than 60 communities across the state. From Alliance to Omaha, youth worked with their local Natural Resources Districts (NRD), afterschool providers, and public and private schools to find safe and creative ways to continue to uphold Nebraska’s proud history of planting trees.
“Social distancing won’t stop us from creating positive community change by planting a legacy of hope in our community,” said Amy Vernon, York Afterschool Program director.
COVID-19 kept school doors closed, but educators got creative and found safe ways to distribute tree seedlings and learning experiences to youth and their families. Ponderosa Pines and Burr Oak seedlings were distributed through school meal programs, delivered to doorsteps, picked up at curbside cruises and even handed out by school mascots.
York Afterschool Program partnered with the Upper Big Blue NRD to deliver trees at locations where free lunches were being provided to youth. Youth from the Loup City afterschool program planted and named their trees, with one called Piney. The North Platte Kids Klub afterschool program partnered with Twin Platte NRD to organize a drive-through tree-a-thon where school mascots gave away small goodie bags of individually wrapped snacks, a tree craft and approximately 150 trees. And when smaller communities were unable to source trees, the Papio-Missouri River NRD in Omaha helped distribute trees across the state.
Norfolk Aftershock afterschool program partnered with the Lower Elkhorn NRD and Mayor Josh Moenning to safely distribute a record 1,500 trees throughout their city utilizing their weekly curbside cruises. “Increasing our tree canopy, in both public and private spaces, benefits everyone,” Moenning said. “Trees save money on heating and cooling costs, mitigate runoff and infrastructure degradation, improve air quality and help beautify the city.”
The Tree-A-Thon was a collaboration with a coalition of nonprofits and public institutions including Beyond School Bells and afterschool providers, the Arbor Day Foundation, Natural Resources Districts, Audubon Nebraska, Nebraska Forest Service, Nebraska Department of Education and the University of Nebraska.
Communities that received free trees from Nebraska’s Natural Resources Districts for the Tree-A-Thon included:
Adams, Allen, Alliance, Auburn, Axtell, Bayard, Bellevue, Bennet, Bertrand, Bow Valley, Boyd County, Bruning-Davenport, Butler County, Creighton, Crofton, Deshler, Elmwood-Murdock, Elwood, Fairbury, Falls City, Gordon-Rushville, Grand Island, Gretna, Hartington, Hastings, Hebron, Holdrege, Humbodt-Table Rock-Steinauer, Johnson-Brock, Keya Paha County, Kimball, Lawrence-Nelson, Lewiston, Lincoln, Loomis, Loup City, Malcom, Minden, Nebraska City, Norfolk, North Platte, Oakland-Craig, Omaha, Pawnee City, Ralston, Red Cloud, Santee, Schuyler, Sterling, Tecumseh, Tekamah, Walthill, Waterloo, Weeping Water, Wilcox-Hildreth, Winnebago, Wynot, York County