By Claudia España and Liz Harper, American Forests

In June, American Forests received an unexpected surprise at our office: a hefty envelope from Madison, Wisconsin. Inside, we found a bundle of letters and a check made out to American Forests for a donation of $39 from a class of fourth grade students at Henry David Thoreau Elementary School.

The students had been researching nonprofits as part of a class project. Each student picked a nonprofit to research and wrote a Public Service Announcement on the organization of their choice. The students presented their findings and voted on their preferred charity. In the end, the students chose American Forests as their favorite!

The winning PSA came from Noah M., who prepared a persuasive argument and delivered it to his classmates. After they’d chosen the winner, each student wrote a letter to us about why they chose American Forests as the recipient of their donation, which was the result of the students collecting spare change.

The 23 letters addressed a wide range of reasons why they felt American Forests was worthy of their support. The students recognized that trees are helpful to the environment, especially in cities like theirs. Several students with asthma pointed out that having more trees would be beneficial for their health, too. “The more trees you plant, the easier it is for me and other people (even if they don’t have asthma) to breathe. It seems to me that places that don’t have a lot of trees are harder to breathe in…” read a letter by a student named Aaron. Clearly, they understand the correlation between healthy trees in the environment and human health.

Throughout the course of this project, which they’d worked hard to complete before the end of the school year, the students came to understand that even spare change can help American Forests plant trees. Every dollar enables us to plant one tree, and every tree makes a difference. The fourth graders made it clear that they wanted to ensure healthy, thriving forests will be around for to them to enjoy as they grow into adulthood, and saw their donation as a way to make that happen.

At American Forests, we were very touched by the unexpected donation and impressed by the students’ hard work, research and discerning choice. The students and their letters have been an encouraging reminder of why we work to create healthy forests across the country – not only for children like these, but also for future generations.

To reward them for their thoughtful generosity, we sent them a handmade card, signed by our staff members, and bookmarks to share with the whole school. As a special thank you for our champion, Noah, we included an American Forests ball cap for him to wear proudly.

Thank you Thoreau Elementary for helping us make a real difference for our forests and our planet!