The Tree Initiative Turns Over New Leaf at Boys and Girls Club

John Dennehy/Correspondent

Emily Williams of the Boys and Girls Club of Daytona usually spends her weekday afternoons keeping fledgling youth at bay with games and crafts. On Friday October 5th, however, she introduced her kids to five motivated members of the Tree Initiative, a club in its third year at Embry Riddle which focuses on environmental outreach and the planting of trees both on and off campus.  

Williams’s boys and girls, aged 8 to 13, were given the opportunity to plant a tree and learn about various environmental benefits of trees thanks to a poster constructed by the club. Tree Initiative Members Deanna DeMattio, John Dennehy, Ricky Wang, Dani Jones, and Mike Sackel showed the students how to plant and care for a tree.  Eager to get to work, the kids jumped at the opportunity to fill a pot with mulch for the fiddle fig tree given to them. Hands dirtied by the process, the kids were abundantly happy to see that they had given a new home for the young sapling. After washing the soil off their hands, students were taught the art of leaf rubbing in which one rubs a crayon on a piece of paper that sits on top of a leaf. They were also given cut samples of tree sections to take home and show their families. 

Tree Initiative President, Deanna DeMattio, could not have been more proud of the students for their cooperation and attentiveness to the activities. “The Tree Planting was not only a great experience for the kids, but also the members of The Tree Initiative. Seeing the excitement kids have about the environment keeps the club motivated and looking for more opportunities to educate,” DeMattio said of the experience. Reaching out to more Boys and Girls Club locations, her wish to educate more was swiftly granted just two weeks later.   

On Friday October 19th, The Tree Initiative returned to another Boys and Girls Club, this time in Holly Hill. Equipped with shovels and mulch, members Becca Boney, Brittany Hannah, and Deanna DeMattio set out to plant a weeping fig on the grounds of the Holly Hill location. Joined by twelve Boys and Girls Club students, the tree was stationed in its new home in no time at all. The planting again was accompanied by leaf rubbings and a poster presentation, both of which were loved by the students.

This event was organized by Christie Miller, the Assistant Director of Leadership and Civic Engagement at Embry Riddle. As the semester continues, Miller hopes to find other clubs who could also come to the Boys and Girls Club of Daytona to spend time with the kids and teach them about what their club does.

 You can send inquiries about this outreach to


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