Beloved and gregarious Fort Collins resident, Mike Ray, tragically met his early death on September 10, 1999 when two young men under the heavy influence of illegal substances brutally murdered him in his home. Mike was only twenty-nine years old. Each year since then, his long-time friend, Stacey Baumgarn, has hosted a “Waffle Feed” to remember Mike and to foster the sense of community that was so important to him.
Stacey and his wife, Jennifer Davey, hosted the first Waffle Feed the year after Mike’s death, providing food for 45 friends and family. All that Stacey and Jennifer asked in return was the optional donation of $1 per person. The first year, the couple matched each $1 donation, raising $90 to plant 90 trees through Trees, Water & People (TWP). Thus began the Mike Ray Memorial Forest and the largest memorial forest TWP has planted yet. Explaining why he chose to plant trees for his friend, Stacey explains, “It really wasn’t until Mike’s funeral that I fully realized the extent and scope and richness of Mike’s life. The idea of a memorial forest as a metaphor for a person’s life is such a perfect fit!”
The annual event has grown to attract as many as 200 people, and now, in it’s 11th year, over $12,000 have been raised and more than 12,000 trees have been planted in Mike’s forest. Reflecting on his ongoing project, Stacey muses, “When I think of Mike and forests – I think of vibrancy and the many layers of life… One tree or one person is not enough to make a forest or a community – but, when you have a bunch of trees or a group of people, then you have something special. ” Thank you to all of Mike’s friends, family, and extended community for the amazing gift you have given back to the world in Mike’s memory!
You can contribute directly to the Mike Ray Memorial Forest, or begin your own memorial forest by contacting us at (970) 484-3678, toll free at (877) 606-4TWP, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.