Dialysis Business Gives New Life to Griffith Park

Los Angeles Business Journal, March 17, 2008

Dialysis Business Gives New Life to Griffith Park

By Jean Yung

A company that makes products to take toxins out of the human body has helped inject new life into Griffith Park. More than 100 employees of DaVita Inc., and El Segundo-based national dialysis company, gathered earlier this year to plant 35 trees at the landmark L.A. park, which was severely burned in last May’s wildfires.

Every year, DaVita’s west division takes on at least one major public service project, often combining it with a regional staff meeting, according to Gary Limon, group vice president of the unit. This year, the company had a specific goal in mind.

“We were looking for something that would allow us to do more for the environment – but something more than pulling up weeds or picking up trash,” said Misha Palecek, director of DaVita’s environmental initiative, called Village Green.

It was this objective that led DaVita to the L.A. conservation non-profit TreePeople in August.

Kelley Skumautz, TreePeople’s annual fund director, welcomed DaVita’s participation. “They had a genuine mission, and they were very open to implementing and putting in monetary investments,” Skumautz said.

DaVita paid $7,150 for the trees and to cover the cost of TreePeople’s tools and staff for the day. Because TreePeople works with the city’s Million Trees LA initiative, it has access to hundreds of Los Angeles parks. DaVita and TreePeople chose Griffith Park.

“The planting was meaningful because it’s a pretty near direct response to a pretty near catastrophe,” said Skumautz. Last summer’s blazes had burned more than 800 acres, almost one-quarter of the park’s 4,000 acres.

Also significant to DaVita was that the surrounding area had a lot of company presence. DaVita runs 15 clinics that service approximately 2,3000 dialysis patients within a 10-mile radius of the park.

Five months after the birth of the idea, DaVita employees gathered in Griffith Park. Working alongside arborists from the Department of Recreation & Parks and TreePeople staff, the group spent the day removing sycamores that were dead or dying and replanting saplings in their place.

After each of the 35 trees was set into the ground, TreePeople workers asked DaVita volunteers to name the tree, encircle it and hold hands to welcome it in to the world. As part of the organization’s tradition, they chanted, “Trees need people. People need trees.”

“It was a beautiful day in Los Angeles,” Limon said. “It gave us a chance to do some physical activity and see some sunshine.”