From Little Things, Big Things Grow


Story by Shannon Wianecki | Photography by Sean Hower

Plant a WishWhen Sara Tekula and Joe Imhoff wed on Maui in 2007, they asked friends to write wishes on slips of paper, which they planted beneath a koa sapling to commemorate their special day.

The tree flourished. So did the idea behind it.

On Earth Day 2010, Tekula and Imhoff launched “Plant A Wish,” their mission to plant fifty trees in fifty states. Working their way across the U.S., they engaged the help of local experts in selecting native trees that will foster habitat for other species and inspire area residents to reconnect with nature.

In California, they planted a redwood; in Indiana, an American beech. In Knoxville, Iowa, they settled a red maple into the soil of an abandoned lot. The community was so pleased, they turned the site into a public garden.

Plant A Wish’s visit to Washington State coincided with the largest dam removal in U.S. history; Tekula and Imhoff helped jumpstart restoration efforts by planting the first tree along a salmon run v that had been dry for 100 years.

Schoolchildren, arborists, Native American tribes, and community groups of every stripe have gathered to put hand to shovel, and plant wishes beneath trees. “Our tour isn’t about numbers of trees,” says Tekula. “It’s about numbers of people.

“Planting a tree makes people feel good. Planting a tree as a community creates an opportunity for people to have a conversation about the land and their town and what they want it to be like.”

Tekula and Imhoff have documented their cross-country adventure—wholly funded by small donations—and plan to release a feature-length film in early 2012. From the road, the intrepid tree-planters share their adventures via Facebook posts and YouTube videos, attracting fresh contributions.

Help them celebrate the tour’s finale in Hawaii this Arbor Day, when they hope to engage a record number of islanders in planting native trees across the state. Learn more at


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