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Local Kids Help Buy a Rainforest

Boys and Girls Club members learn to save a rainforest -- one acre at a time.

Posted: February 19, 2008 6:30 p.m.
Updated: April 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Some of the Boys and Girls Club members from the Newhall branch who volunteered for the Eternal Rainforest Project bake sale and art are, back row Johnny Lopez, Turner Lessard, Taylor Scott and Program Director Rubisela Sanchez. The middle row are Desiree Torres, Alyssa Moreno and Adriana Aguirre. The front row, from left are Joshua Catalan and ...

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Green and yellow vines hung overhead. Colorful paper bugs crawled down the walls and furry forest animals peeked out from between the leaves. Sounds of rainfall and exotic birds filled the air, drowning out the sounds of the kids playing in the other room. Tables were completely filled with baskets of tasty, homemade treats and adorable pet rocks begging to be adopted.

Thus, the inside of the Boys and Girls Club in Newhall was transformed into a tropical rainforest on Friday afternoon, where a group of dedicated kids helped raise money to help buy rainforest land in Costa Rica.

For the bake sale, Johnny Lopez and Turner Lessard manned the tables, selling the goodies and the colorful handmade pet rocks for 50 cents each. They were part of a group of 14 kids who participated in the Eternal Rainforest Project dedicated to protecting rainforests in Central America.

The kids learned that for every $25 they raised, they could purchase one acre of land in a protected rainforest in Costa Rica.

To initiate the fundraiser, Rubisela Sanchez, project director for the Boys and Girls Club, Newhall branch, took 12 kids on a field trip to Whole Foods Market in Valencia on Jan. 24 to speak with Marketing Supervisor Tina Landrum, where they learned the critical importance of saving the rainforest - even if it is thousands of miles away.

Landrum explained why it is important to save the trees to preserve oxygen, reduce our carbon footprint and save native animals, plants and herbs - some of which might help cure cancer or other diseases someday.

"They (Whole Foods) realized some of the products they use came from parts of the rainforest, so we came on board to help," Sanchez said.

Sanchez said Whole Foods initially approached the Boys and Girls Club to get the kids involved because it was easier than going through the school system. Thus, in the spirit of thinking globally and acting locally, the kids learned that what we do in our lives here has a direct connection to disappearing rainforests in the world.

To get the kids started, Whole Foods donated organic mixes so they could bake oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies, lemon squares and chocolate cake.

"The kids were very enthusiastic about being a part of this, and all of their also parents got on board," Sanchez said. "They were so excited to be part of something like this."

This is the second rainforest fundraiser with the Boys and Girls Club in partnership with Whole Foods. A few months ago, the kids sold small, organic pizzas and made enough money to buy four acres in the rainforest. Sanchez hoped Friday's bake sale would help them purchase three to four more acres. She said the money raised would transfer to the Monteverde Conservation League, who purchases the land in Costa Rica.

The kids, Janelle Garcia, Zoe Murry, Alyssa Moreno, Young Kim, Colton Floyd, Alli Ebner, Yuri Lauderdale, Hannah Cho, Elizabeth Zepeda, Joshua Catalan, Adriana Aguirre, Taylor Scott, Turner Lessard and Johnny Lopez, assisted with the fundraiser by attending the field trip to Whole Foods, painting pet rocks, making the rainforest decorations and baking the treats.

Sanchez said Landrum actually suggested making pet rocks and it just so happens they already had a bunch of smooth rocks that were donated to the Club for crafts.

For about two weeks, the kids worked on painting the pet rocks and decorating them with 'googly' eyes. They even came up with their own slogan for the event - "Help Pass the Passion."

"This was all their idea," Sanchez said.

Additionally, Sanchez said Madison Bottorf, the art director at the Boys and Girls Club, helped the kids make the banners, bugs and paper vines.

The Eternal Rainforest project seeks to teach kids the importance of saving rainforests, now and in the future.

According to the Whole Foods brochure, the land the kids buy through fundraisers will be an extension of what is already the largest private reserve of protected Rain Forest in Central America.

It's called the "Children's Eternal Rain Forest (Bosque Eterno de los Niños) so named after it was adopted more than 20 years ago by a classroom of nine-year-olds in Sweden.

That class raised funds and spurred other classrooms throughout the world to do the same, raising enough money to help purchase the most critical piece of rainforest in the world.

Turner Lessard, a bit of a marketing Wiz, suggested continuing the project in other places, like at Whole Foods itself, to raise awareness in the community.

"After we went to Whole Foods, I learned about saving rainforests, to save the trees, animals and save the land," said Desiree Torres, who also helped bake the goodies. "Also, it is important to preserve oxygen and maybe find a cure for cancer (using) the plants in the forest."

"I learned that everyone should pitch in to save the rainforests so the animals won't die," said Alyssa Moreno, who also helped bake cookies and paint the banners.

"I am proud to be part of a seed that is growing," Sanchez said. "When I told them the project was ending, they got sad. They want it to continue, so we are helping them in any way we can so the kids can continue to 'help pass the passion.'"

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