Posted by Mike Hurley on Apr 23, 2018
(pictured L to R:  President Elect Andrew Bandler, President Tracy Bray, Mike Hurley Highway of Heroes, Secretary Doug Peterson) Kelly McKinney, as a former tree planter in his younger years, was pleased to introduce today's guest speaker, Mike Hurley, Manager of Fundraising and Communications for the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign.  Mike Hurley brings over 10 years of experience in the charitable world, previously acting as the Manager of MusiCounts — Canada’s music education charity associated with the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and the JUNO Awards. During his time with the organization, he helped to put musical instruments into the hands of children who needed them most.  Mike is excited to apply what he has learned in his previous role to help grow the Highway of Heroes Living Tribute Campaign and is eager to connect with individuals and groups across Canada to plan and host fundraisers to support the Living Tribute. He is looking to connect with various corporate citizens who share the Highway of Heroes core values of environment, remembrance and community.  Born, raised and living in Mississauga, Ont., he has a deep appreciation for the outdoors and is excited to use his skills and experience, coupled with his passion and patriotic pride, to help transform one of the most meaningful stretches of highway in the world.
During the war in Afghanistan, Canada lost 159 men and women in the conflict.  Once repatriated at CFB Trenton, their bodies were driven to the coroner's office in Toronto.  A very Canadian thing happened during those years:  hundreds of people turned out to stand on bridges at points along highway 401 to quietly reflect on the meaning of this sacrifice, hold flags and salute the fallen heroes passing by in hearses.  This was a very personal experience for all.  Since then, the 170 km route has been known as the Highway of Heroes.  In 2014 a group of tree-loving people thought it would be a wonderful enhancement to transform the Highway of Heroes into a living tribute that honours our war dead, 117,000 since Confederation.  Also, planting commemorative trees along the highway would clean the atmosphere, cool the environment and provide an inspired drive down an otherwise pedestrian stretch of asphalt.  Since that time, support has grown, as have the project's ambitions.  117,000 trees will be planted directly adjacent to the highway to honour those who died and a total of two million trees will be planted to recognize all Canadians who have served during times of war.  Already underway, tree planting events educate volunteers about sacrifices that have been made.
Volunteer planting events near the highway educate Canadians about the benefits of reforestation, the importance of native trees and why, as a nation, we need to embrace measures that protect our environment from the impacts of climate change.  As Canadians, we are proud of our values that guide us to respect green spaces and wilderness.  Those who serve in our military protect our land and our freedom; we must protect what they've fought for.
The goal of the Highway of Heroes Campaign is to obtain $10 million in pledges by 2020 -- from government, individuals, corporations, foundations and those who can donate in-kind goods and services.  This will allow completion of soil remediation and plantings.  Premier Kathleen Wynne announced a $1 million donation on behalf of the government of Ontario.  This gives a huge push towards the fundraising goal.  This, in addition to more than $1.7 million raised from private Canadian sources to date means we are 1/3 of the way to our goal. 

The Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign has entered into a partnership campaign with Rotary District 7070 to allow all Rotarians in the District to help plant a tree and to remind travellers along the 401 of the debt we, as Canadians, owe to those who have served protecting Canada.  In other words, to show the Rotary support behind Service Above Self and to unite communities behind a single cause, enabling people and businesses to positively impact their communities through beautification and naturalization.  The Partnership Campaign with Rotary will allow people two Hero Trees planted along the Highway of Heroes for a donation of $150 along with official customized tribute certificates and the memorial names on the rolling marquee of honour and remembrance on the Highway of Heroes website.  A tax receipt is applicable as well.

About 17,000 trees have been planted in 2018 with at least another 20,000 to be planted.  As trees mature, the project will have a greater impact.  The trees will still be there for the next generation to signify what our armed forces are fighting for.  "Blessed is the one who plants a tree knowing they will not be there to enjoy its shade".  Anyone wishing to make a donation can send a cheque payable to The Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation, mailed to Highway of Heroes Living Tribute, 7856 Fifth Line South, Milton, Ontario L9T 2X8 or go to and make an on-line donation.