BREA – The origins of this story can be traced back to a few seeds.
First, it was seedlings planted by Disney stars and Storm Troopers at the Disney D23 fan convention last summer.
A file photo shows the grounds surrounding Brea Canyon High School and Brea-Olinda High School devastated by a November 2008 fire.
Around the same time, three students at Brea Olinda High School had the seed of an idea to help their campus recover from a devastating fire.
On Sunday, it all blossomed into a massive replanting effort than involved dozens of volunteers, another Disney Channel star – Nicole Anderson from “JONAS” – and those three Brea students who nurtured their dream to make it happen.
They planted about 4,000 native California plants and shrubs on a one-acre slope next to Brea Olinda and Brea Canyon high schools.
“To see all of this actually happening, to see these people working and the plants going in – to think it all started with an idea to help – it gives me chills,” said Jacqueline Cortes, 17, one of the three Brea Olinda students who led the replanting.
The slope where they worked was torched in the November 2008 Freeway Complex fire that raged through Yorba Linda, Anaheim Hills and Brea. Trees and shrubs burned to the ground, creating an eerie pile of gray and white ash.
As firefighters described it, the area had been “moonscaped.”
Brea students, proud of their campus, mobilized to replant.
Ads on the Disney Channel inspired the three juniors at Brea Olinda High, including Cortes, Andrew Daedler and Lauren Kelley, all 17, to start a Friends for Change club to improve the environment.
Soon after, they read a story in The Register about the planting of the seedlings by Disney Channel stars such as Chelsea Staub, from “JONAS,” and Tiffany Thornton, from “Sonny with a Chance.”
The students contacted the county’s Inside the Outdoors program, where the seedlings were being nurtured at its headquarters in Silverado Canyon.
Officials there said the students’ idea fit in with the program’s mission of awareness, knowledge and action in the community to help the environment.
Program administrator Pam Johnson said getting the students to help organize the planting and recruit volunteers would help them spread the message among their peers.
“They studied to learn about these plants and now when they drive by they can say, ‘That’s what I worked on and I made my community a better place,’” Johnson said.
Disney started its Friends for Change: Project Green program last May. Already more than 1.6 million children and young adults have gotten involved, pledging to organize beach cleanups and start clubs to promote green living.
The Brea club has enrolled 40 members, so far. They are already looking forward to more events, such as a recycling program to coincide with Earth Day next month.
Disney officials were so impressed with the Brea group that they brought out a production crew to film Sunday’s planting for a segment that will run on the Disney Channel this summer.
Nicole Anderson, 19, who plays Macy on “JONAS,” said when she heard about the project, she was happy to volunteer her time.
“I’m here for myself, just hanging out with other kids my age, because I think it’s great what they are doing,” Anderson said.
Mostly, the club’s founders say they are happy to see flowers and greenery coming back to their campus.
“It was thoroughly depressing around here after the fire,” Kelley said. “It’s so nice to see green again.”
But they are also impressed to see Disney acknowledging their efforts.
“When we were getting started with the idea for the club, we said, ‘Yeah, then we’ll get Disney out here to help,’ you know, like a joke,” said co-founder, Andrew Daedler.
“And now they are here,” Kelley added. “It’s unbelievable.
“We hope we can inspire others to start a club of their own and make a difference in their community, too.”
SOURCE: OC Register