Climate Change

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Al Gore is not the only advocate for combating climate change. One modern-day Johnny Appleseed from Illinois has taken time to plant 15,000 trees across the Midwest, and he’s not slowing down. Kim Riemland reports on how he’s raising environmental awareness in his own backyard and beyond.   

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(Locator: Riverside, Illinois)

(Family walking through the woods) “Those are the oak seeds.”

The Murphy family is off to save the planet.

On a chilly, damp day, they’re working by the riverbank in Riverside, Illinois, to replenish the trees in their tree-filled town.

The Murphy’s commitment to the environment took root thanks to this man, Tom Sisulak. This coach and conservationist is a modern-day Johnny Appleseed.

Tom Sisulak/Environmentalist, Riverside United Methodist Church: “In the past 35 years, I’ve planted probably 15,000-plus trees in different states – Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana.”

But on this day, Tom has ambitious plans for volunteers from his church, Riverside United Methodist...

Tom Sisulak/ Environmentalist, Riverside United Methodist Church: “We’re going to plant 1,000 trees today.”

…to preserve the natural beauty of his hometown.

Tom Sisulak/Environmentalist, Riverside United Methodist Church: “All four of these seeds should be in the ground at least three inches.”

Tom teaches his team how to plant seeds for a variety of trees.

Following a dance of dedication from a descendant of Riverside’s first residents, volunteers set out on their mission.

William Gmitro/Volunteer: “Lots of these trees are dying, so we have to get new trees to replace them.”

(Tom Sisulak teaching child how to plant seed) “Now put it in there. There ya go. Now, put a little dirt in. Now tap some more. Alright, now step on it. Good job!”

Dan Gmitro/Volunteer: “I think they’re getting the message that you have to take care of the environment.”

Riverside’s pastor hopes other communities will answer that same call to action.

The Rev. Bromleigh McCleneghan: “I think there’s a sense of hope that we are contributing to something that is beyond ourselves.”


Tom Sisulak’s goal for next year is to recruit ten United Methodist churches to join forces in planting 10,000 trees!

For more information, contact Tom Sisulak at 708- 447-1760 or visit

Also, see: 'Johnny Appleseed' organizes tree-planting project