After spending nearly two decades teaching about horticulture and investing in plant care, Richard Reitz decided to participate in the Tour des Trees bicycle ride and fundraise for the Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund.
In July, he trekked hundreds of miles through Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Rochester, N.Y.; and many other communities to raise money for the organization.
“It was a really great experience,” said Reitz, a horticulture professor at the College of Southern Nevada in Henderson. “I really felt accomplished to be able to complete it and to be able to contribute.”
Tour des Trees started 22 years ago as a way to raise awareness and money for research for tree education.
Anita Gambill, a public relations specialist with STIHL, a company that manufactures chain saws, trimmers and blowers, said it became a sponsor of the event in 2001.
“We had many customers in tree care that had the desire to be a part of it,” she said.
In 2009, it became the title sponsor.
Over the years, the event has grown with more funds being raised and riders joining.
“We went from about 60 to 70 riders to more than 100,” she said.
It’s not just die-hard athletes who opt in.
“We get a range of riders,” she said. “Some take their vacations to do it so they can enjoy the scenery. Some are there to get their miles in.”
Reitz moved to Las Vegas in 1986. In the 1990s, he began working in the landscape maintenance business.
“I took some college classes in order to fill out my knowledge in the business,” he said.
The opportunity bloomed into him teaching at CSN.
Along the way, Reitz became a member of the International Society of Arboriculture.
“And that’s how I became aware of Tour des Trees,” he said.
This year’s location, starting at Niagara Falls, seemed too beautiful to pass up.
The race, which started July 28, went a counterclockwise route starting at Lake Ontario and concluding a week later in Toronto. Reitz had to go.
Before the event, he had been riding his bicycle more for recreational purposes. He would ride with local groups doing 20- to 30-mile rides before work.
“I logged about 6,000 miles in 2012,” he said.
He was ready for the Tour des Trees challenge.
“It’s not really different except you’re doing 300 miles in three days back to back,” he said.
As a professor of horticulture, Reitz was amazed to see the plant life throughout the region.
“Their plant pallet is so much bigger,” he said. “Everyone in the tree industry appreciates the beauty of it. I appreciated it because it was different compared to what we have here.”
It wasn’t just the landscape. Reitz also appreciated how the plants and trees complemented the architecture of the cities.
The hardest part of participating in Tour des Trees for Reitz wasn’t the actual ride but the fundraising.
“I would reach out to friends and families,” he said. “It was tough.”
He raised about $2,800 at the time of publication with a goal of $3,500.
Gambill said the fundraising website is slated to be open and accepting donations until the end of the month.
“We have raised a little more than half a million dollars with a goal to raise $600,000,” she said.
Reitz is gearing up to do the Tour des Trees next year.
He is already strategizing how to attract more people to contribute.
“I hope to be more persistent with fundraising and contact more businesses,” he said.
For more information about the program, visit stihltourdestrees.org.
To contribute to Reitz, visit tinyurl.com/reitztrees.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5201.