By Joanna Brody



Nine years ago, a man knocked on Sean Mulcahy’s front door in Van Nuys and introduced himself as a former owner of the house. The stranger asked to see the backyard and Sean obliged. As he surveyed the yard, the man welled with emotion at the sight of a 120-foot-tall palm tree, one that he had planted when his daughter was only five years old.

Touched and inspired, Sean decided to plant a tree to honor his own future child. His daughter, Katelyn Rose Mulcahy (Katie), was born soon after in January 1997. Two months later, on March 22, 1997, Sean planted a magnolia tree to honor Katie’s birth. But he did not plant it in his own backyard in Van Nuys. Rather, he participated in a community planting in his neighborhood that was co-sponsored by TreePeople and the L.A. Conservation Corps.

Sean wanted to plant Katie’s tree in a public place so that they could enjoy the tree no matter where they lived in the future, and so the community would benefit from the tree’s shade, beauty and water conservation properties. As part of every community planting, the volunteers who plant the trees are asked to name them. Of course, Sean named the tree that he had planted, Katie.

In a letter to his daughter dated May 18, 1997, a few days before planting the tree, Sean wrote the following: “I planted this tree for many reasons. I wanted you and the tree to grow up together... I would love to teach you the importance of respecting the environment.”

TreePeople’s Tree Dedication program began 30 years ago with memorial dedications for loved ones who passed on. The program branched out to holiday tree dedications, and now people dedicate trees to commemorate birthdays, weddings, graduations and other important life events.

Dedications support Tree-People’s Mountain Forestry program, which restores native trees and vegetation in the mountains of Southern California damaged by fire, invasive species, overuse and agriculture. Hundreds of thousands of native trees owe their beginning to TreePeople’s year-round program.

Last year, Sean teamed up with TreePeople to establish the Newborn Tree Dedication program. “In addition to teaching Katie about the environment, the planting of trees is the legacy I would like to leave my child,” said Sean. Tree-People created a beautiful card to accompany each tree dedication.

In addition to establishing Tree-People’s Newborn Tree Dedication program, Sean will carry on the legacy by dedicating a tree each year to mark Katie’s birthday. He also takes an annual photo of them both with the original tree.

Sean feels so strongly about the ties between a birth and planting of a tree that he sends a Tree-People tree dedication each time a baby is born to a family member, friend or co-worker. “Within a year of my daughter being born, several friends had babies,” said Sean. “For every one born, I sent a TreePeople tree dedication in the new baby’s honor.” Letters have flooded back to Sean from family and friends saying that the dedication had real meaning. “People write telling me that nobody has ever given them something this unique,” added Sean.

Sean has made more than 200 tree dedications in the last seven years, including several for fallen New York City firefighters, victims of Sept. 11th. Sean’s brother is a New York City firefighter. Several members of his unit died that tragic day, including his chief, who watched over him when he was a rookie. Though the trees are planted in Los Angeles, the families of the firefighters know that a tree planted here helps the global environment.

Katie now gives up some Saturdays with friends to help her father promote TreePeople’s Newborn Tree Dedication program. And for every death, birth or birthday that occurs in their circle of family and friends, Katie is the first to say, “Dad, what if we plant a tree?”

For more information or to order a Tree Dedication, call (818) 753-TREE (8733) or visit www.treepeople.org.


TreePeople Launches Newborn Tree Dedication Program

Welcome a new life by dedicating a tree! For $25, family, friends or co-workers can dedicate a tree to honor the birth of a newborn and TreePeople will send a personalized card. For a $75 gift, TreePeople will plant a grove of five trees and send an inscribed certificate to the recipient. Certificates can be framed with a recycled wood frame for an additional $25. Contributions are tax-deductible and support TreePeople’s reforestation efforts, promoting healthier environments through the planting and caring of our mountain and urban forests.

TreePeople works with land management agencies to plant in the mountains around Southern California. We can tell you the area in which seedlings are planted, although particular trees are not assigned to each dedication. You and the tree dedication recipients are invited to join in the planting with our Mountain Forestry volunteers.

TreePeople’s Mission is to inspire the people of Los Angeles to take personal responsibility for the urban forest — educating, training and supporting them as they plant and care for trees, and improve the neighborhoods in which they live, work and play.

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