The members of Darien's Arbor Day committee have seen the celebration transform over the past 12 years from park beautification into a meaningful memorial.
Darien residents Kathy Minardi and Sharon Convalle have been organizing the city's since its inception.
“Our first tree memorial was dedicated to a young man who had lost his life in the military,” Minardi reflected. “Sharon sang a song and Father Gavin Quinn from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel gave an ecumenical tree blessing.”
Minardi sought donations for years until she met Charleen and Robert Vuillaume in 2006. The Vuillames had recently lost their passionate, free-spirited 16-year-old son Carl and were already in full swing setting up a foundation that would honor him by giving to the community in ways that would spread the joy that was so much a part of his character.
For the last five years, The Gift of Carl Foundation has donated more than $5,000 to plant 29 trees, in addition to other community grants. This year an additional five trees will be planted honoring two beloved educators and three young men, all from Darien.
The first dedication will take place Friday at 10:45 a.m. near the marquee atHinsdale South.
The second dedications will take place later at 1:15 p.m. at .
Minardi and Covalle were joined by fellow committee members Heidi Ramirez and Myra Walcott recently as they assembled more than 500 gift bags containing snacks, flower seeds, bug tattoos, a Morton Arboretum pass and Going Green Advice for the students who are participating in the day’s events.
Charleen Vuillaume assisted the Arbor Day committee in adding another element to the tree dedications—the release of butterflies.
Each year Convalle orders caterpillars and delivers them to teacher Bob Johnson, who cares for them with his students until they’ve transformed into butterflies, which is usually a day or two before the Arbor Day events.
The Lace students will attend the celebration, along with students from and schools.
“We couldn’t pull this event without the help of the community,” Minardi said.
Both the and Districts have attended, helping the kids use the fire hose to water the new trees.
The , The Morton Arboretum and the provide assistance to ensure the event’s meaningful success.
Mayor Kathleen Weaver praised Minardi and the committee’s efforts in helping the Darien environment and providing such a meaningful service to the community.
“They do a tremendous job recognizing individuals and focusing on being green. The butterfly release has a great impact on the children and families,” Weaver said.
Minardi, Convalle and Ramirez reflected on the feedback they’ve received over the years, saying that seeing the students’ reactions, and especially those of the families who are remembering a loved one, makes them feel honored to give back to the community.
“The celebration gives all of us who attend a sense of hope and community,” Minardi added. “And somehow rooted in each tree is the memory of who it’s been planted for.”