“Look at these happy little trees,” Bob Ross would say, as his angled paintbrush etched forests into canvas. That love for nature that shone from the eyes of everyone’s favorite TV art teacher was genuine. That’s why, inspired by Ross, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is bringing back the Run for the Trees / Happy Little (Virtual) 5K April 22-29, 2022, now in its third year.
Initially, the program began with hundreds of volunteers helping to plant “happy little trees” at locations hard-hit by invasive pests and tree diseases, but the partnership quickly expanded to include nearly 40,000 participants raising awareness and funding for stewardship efforts through this virtual 5K. In the first two years, the event has raised more than $600,000.
Race proceeds support tree planting and forest protection efforts—such as invasive plant and forest pest management and early detection surveys—in Michigan state parks and recreation areas. Many of these locations have been affected by tree pests and diseases like emerald ash borer and oak wilt.
The program has produced more than 100,000 native plants, shrubs and trees since its start in 2004. With support from the Bob Ross partnership, more than 2,100 trees have been planted in 20 state parks across Michigan.
Runners, walkers and hikers can complete their 5K anywhere outdoors anytime between April 22-29. For $34 per person, each participant will receive a keepsake Happy Little T-shirt, a commemorative bib number and a finisher’s medal. There is an international shipping option available to accommodate participants outside the United States.
“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Bob Ross Inc. in order to support our tree planting and stewardship efforts in Michigan state parks," said Michelle O’Kelly, fund developer and Happy Little Trees race director for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “In just the first two years of this incredibly popular event, race participants have helped generate a stable source of funding toward healthy, thriving forests at state parks throughout the next decade.”Learn more about the program and register for the race at Michigan.gov/DNRHappyLittleTrees. Registration is open for this 2022 state parks-supporting race. The event is capped at 18,500 participants, so don't delay!