After exceeding their goal of planting 1,000 trees in one year, Viktor El-Saieh and Jenna Jennings have decided to drastically increase their model project to 10,000 trees.

“My personal philosophy is to reach for the stars and land on the moon,” described El-Saieh, founder of what is now 10,000 Trees Jax. “If we significantly make more money, we develop more partnerships, and devote more time; 10,000 trees are possible to plant in two years.”

In theory, the trees that 1,000 Trees Jax plants will continue to grow forever. The group only plants trees native to Florida. These trees include the long leaf pine, live oak, cypress and holly. The trees may be as small as seedlings or so large to be planted in 30-gallon containers.


Last year, 1,000 Trees Jax was awarded $500 from One Spark. Recently, One Spark added a new category to the festival called, “Social Good.” This year, 10,000 Trees Jax hopes to win the grand prize of $15,000 by getting the most votes in the Social Good category.

“The main thing we learned from last year is, you don’t need a ton of money to be successful; what you do need is the ability to form partnerships,” explained El-Saieh.

Jacksonville Parks was one of 1,000 Trees Jax’s first partners. Brian Burket, national resource recreation specialist, identifies locations where trees are needed and 1,000 Trees Jax plants them. There have been times that El-Saieh and his team have paid for the trees, but other times Jacksonville Electric Authority pays for them.

Every time JEA cuts down a tree, for whatever reason, it is required to plant another tree. The first planting done by 1,000 Tree Jax was completely funded by JEA.

With this year reaching for a goal of 10,000, the project can’t rely on just the parks. The area doesn’t have enough park locations to plant 10,000 trees but there are other places that need to have trees planted.

“Any time a tree is cut down in a city, they’re required to put money into this tree mitigation fund,” explained El-Saieh. “We’re hoping to get money to fund more trees from this. You really have to go in the council and lobby for it. Learning about it is what inspired us to set our goal a little higher.”


At One Spark 2015, 10,000 Trees Jax hopes to expand partnerships. The project recently developed a relationship with Douglas Anderson School for the Arts. One of 10,000 Trees Jax’s current volunteers pitched the project to 60 students at the school. Together, they are going to spread the project’s message throughout the streets of One Spark.

“It doesn’t matter where you are located, it’s about having a team throughout the festival moving and pitching your project,” explained El-Saieh. “Everyone liked our project last year; it’s really easy to pitch. People of Jacksonville are really supportive of environmental programs.”

If 10,000 Trees Jax is successful in planting 10,000 trees in two years, El-Saieh hopes to take the model project to another city. Right now, the city that looks best for the project is Orlando, due to the mayor of the city committing to planting 250,000 trees over a certain period.

Ultimately, the goal of 10,000 Trees Jax is to bring the project to Haiti. El-Saieh is originally from Haiti, where some of his family still resides. Haiti is severely deforested. He hopes to take the project to Haiti, and do something along the lines of, “A Million Trees Haiti.”


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