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A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E /
/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
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Hawaii Film Makers
Begin Tree Planting Tour
& Documentary Project
by Sara Tekula
The Maui-based founders of
Plant a Wish, a nationwide tree
planting tour and documentary
project begun in 2010, have an-
nounced their upcoming return
to the continental U.S. for the
second installment in their mis-
sion to plant native trees in all
50 U.S. states.
Founders Joe Imhoff and Sara
Tekula, a husband and wife film-
making team, first announced
the Plant a Wish project on Earth
Day 2010, with the pair travel-
ing to 25 states in the mid-west
and northeast in June and July
of that year.
With a message encourag-
ing the restoration of local na-
tive habitat, the duo depended
largely on popular social media
tools to raise funds and connect
with local nonprofit organiza-
tions, tree nurseries, a variety of
community members, and land-
owners to arrange tree plant-
ing events in each location. At
these gatherings, participants are
asked to write wishes on small
scraps of paper and then plant
them under a tree native to their
location, hence the name, "Plant
a Wish."
"The planting of written wish-
es under trees began as a private
thing Sara and I liked to do on
our own," says Imhoff. "As we
have encouraged random peo-
ple to plant their wishes along
the tour, we have all come to
see it as a powerful symbol of
our connection to nature. Those
trees are even more special to
the communities we are meeting
because of that very personal,
simple gesture they have made,
and I am willing to bet they will
want that tree to stay around."
In March, Imhoff and Tekula
will fly again to the mainland to
document the road-trip across
the entire southern U.S., plant-
ing trees in 18 more states, from
Florida in the east to California
in the west. (The full list of loca-
tions is available on their web-
Plant a Wish project found-
ers will again connect with local
land stewards and tree experts
along the way, highlighting the
work they do and examining the
issues we are all facing such as
global warming, urban sprawl,
the oil catastrophe in the Gulf,
loss of biodiversity, and various
industrial impacts.
"Along the way, tree-planting
events are opportunities for us to
meet incredible people from all
walks of life," says Tekula. "As
filmmakers, we enjoy document-
ing their stories about the history
of the land they call home, and
learning how special these plac-
es are. We also seek out cultur-
al landmarks and extraordinary
historic trees and capture their
beauty on film, and interview
experts who can shed some light
on the importance of native trees
and plants everywhere."
Tekula is a journalist and a
former TV documentary produc-
er, while Imhoff is the Outreach
Coordinator for Skyline Eco-
Adventures, a zipline company
known for its support of land
restoration and watershed pres-
ervation on Maui. The two share
a passion for film making, and
in 2004, formed their production
company, Noni Films. The Plant
a Wish adventure is the subject
of their first feature film, to be
completed in 2012.
"We wanted to take our love
for the land a big step forward,"
said Imhoff. "Living in Hawaii,
we're learning about the histo-
ry of this fragile ecosystem and
how it is in danger because of
humans' choices throughout his-
tory. This project is a reminder
that each and every local land-
scape has a very special story to
Each native species is unique
and special, and in most cases
very useful in its home environ-
ment. One woman whom we
interviewed called trees `mar-
vels of engineering,' and that's
turning out to be very true every-
where we go. It is important for
us to use the tools of film making
to tell these stories."
Imhoff and Tekula will be
planting area-specific native
trees everywhere they go dur-
ing the tour because "the na-
tive trees have the unique abil-
ity to adapt to the locations
they evolved in over thousands
of years," says Tekula. "In Dela-
ware, we learned that a single
oak tree can support up to 600
different types of moths and
butterflies," says Tekula, "which
means there is a lot of food
for birds when there's an oak
around. Birds need to eat, too."
Imhoff adds, "The same idea
holds true in every location we
visit: native trees are one of the
building blocks for the life we
see all around us. Nowhere is
this more important than in our
home state of Hawaii, which has
been called the `posterchild for
extinction' by several experts
we've met on tour. Native trees
need to be returned to our land-
scape if we want the islands to
sustain us, and we've been shar-
ing that message with everyone
we meet along the way. In a way,
lessons learned in Hawaii can
change the world."
To offset costs of their proj-
ect, Imhoff and Tekula are using
grassroots and web-based fund-
raising methods. Their ability to
complete a tour depends heavily
on the kindness of friends and
family for lodging, and sponsors
to support the costs of travel and
A contributor giving $20 or
more receives a credit in their
film, and has a wish planted on
their behalf. All interested com-
munity members can follow
their blog at www.plantawish.
org/blog, and join the Plant a
Wish social networks, at www. or at
To become a sponsor, or for more
information, please call Plant a Wish
at (808) 250-4030 or visit us at: www.
Joe Imhoff and Sara Tekula with native koa trees in their Maui
Photo by
We learned that a
single oak tree can
support up to 600
different types of
moths and butterflies.