In early 2019, Narendra and Harsha Patel of Okemos, Michigan, generously supported our campaign to plant 50 million trees on our National Forests. Learn more about why they love nature and supporting forests for future generations.

Where did you grow up/what’s your background and how did it foster your love for nature?

From a very young age, I’ve always had a passion and appreciation for wildlife and nature. I was born in Kenya, where our home was surrounded by mulberry, Indian blackberry, loquat, and pomegranate trees. I was fascinated by the different trees and would often get in trouble with my mother for climbing the trees and picking and eating all the fruit!

After living at that house for 10 years, my family moved to India and I couldn’t believe all of the new plants and animals that surrounded our new home. I began to learn more about gardening from friends and neighbors, and started a vegetable garden in our yard complete with mangos, lemons, and papayas. As I grew older, I would take breaks to tour city parks and gardens admiring everything from the creative designs to the unique fragrances.

These relaxing walks became essential when I started medical school, and began to dream about one day owning a house and yard in the United States. These dreams slowly started to take shape when my wife and I moved to Chicago in 1979, and became a reality when we purchased our first home in Okemos, where we have lived for the past 35 years. Here, we enjoy many of the outdoor activities that Michigan has to offer such as the beaches, hiking, and visiting parks. My wife also is in the local garden club and we regularly attend events, annual flower shows, and plant flowers in our indoor sunroom and gardens.

Do you visit Michigan’s National Forests or other out-of-state National Forests and if so, what is your favorite thing to do while there?

I’ve always enjoyed visiting Michigan’s National Forests, however now that my kids have grown up, we’ve been traveling more often to visit parks in the U.S. and abroad at Serengeti in East Africa and Amazon in Peru. Recently we visited Yellowstone National Park (NP), Glacier NP, Badlands NP, Grand Teton NP, and Denali NP in Alaska. During these visits, my wife and I of course enjoy hiking and taking pictures, but most of all we appreciate the peace and tranquility, especially when surrounded by trees that are more than 100 years old.

Why did you choose to plant trees with the National Forest Foundation (NFF)?

The idea of planting a large number of trees was appealing to me, but I knew that I would need help with the planning and logistics. I began looking for an organization online that worked in this space, and could help with the details and execution. This led us to the NFF website, where we were quickly impressed by the comprehensive package of forestry professionals, seedling nurseries, and active initiatives around planting and managing forests. Locally, there was no other organization that compared, especially given the NFF’s high rating among charities, which also factored into the decision!

I want to make sure our National Forests and Parks are around not just for my kids and grandkids, but for generations to come.

Why is supporting our campaign to plant 50 million trees on our National Forests important to you? And why should others join you?

An appreciation for trees and nature was a big part of my childhood and continues to be as an adult. I want to make sure our National Forests and Parks are around not just for my kids and grandkids, but for generations to come. Initiatives like this are also a great reminder about the impact that we can all have when we come together. 50 million trees as a group is absolutely achievable.

A large project is truly a breath of fresh air! It not only helps our National Forests, but also raises awareness and provides citizens with an actionable way to get involved. I also think it’s important, because the NFF helps create the model to spread similar projects not just around the US, but around the world. We need people across the country and the world to join hands in such movements to save the environment and combat specific aspects of climate change such as desertification, and species extinction. This is the only home we have, and we should all come together to ensure future generations have the same opportunities to visit.

If you would like to make a generous contribution to support tree planting, click here. Remember, every $1 plants 1 tree for our forests.

National Forest Foundation