The initial concept was born at an NHLA convention in 2013. Tommy MacDonald gave a presentation about his work with the Hardwood Forest Foundation educating children on trees and the many ways they are used. While listening to MacDonald’s story, attendee and marketing manager at DMSi Software, Elizabeth Langan, had an idea.
A recent member of the Omaha Children’s Museum board, Langan saw an opportunity to combine philanthropy with educating the public and future generations on the importance of lumber and the industries it influences. Upon returning home, Langan arranged a meeting between members of the Hardwood Forest Foundation and the Omaha Children’s Museum. Thanks to this partnership and the generosity of donors, the interactive Forever Forest exhibit will launch this October.
Forever Forest will feature interactive play spaces where children and their parents will learn about the many careers and products found under the building materials umbrella. Children will learn the different professional roles available in the industry as they maneuver a kid-size grapple skidder, load items onto a Union Pacific train, work with tools to create projects using building materials, and even distribute play medicine at the general store. As parents explore these areas with their children they will become more knowledgeable consumers of building materials and the many industries they affect.
An additional benefit of the exhibit, specific to the lumber and building materials industry itself, is the uniting of various industries that do not typically communicate with each other. As Langan described her goals for the project she stated, “as a company we are in 42 different trade associations which all rely in some way on tree products and these industries don’t talk to each other, so what I really wanted to do was connect them.” By aligning the goals of these industries and highlighting the importance of working together to bring information to the public, the Forever Forest will help bridge a gap across industries while educating children and the adults who accompany them on the wonders of building materials.
Financial contributors to the Forever Forest exhibit include Union Pacific Railroad, DMSi Software, the Hardwood Forest Foundation, Omaha Children’s Hospital, and many others. After a period of time in Omaha, the exhibit will tour the country for ten years, the first three of which are already booked.