Rancho Santa Fe resident’s Giving Tree Movement ready to branch out

By Kelley Carlson

Local nonprofit The Giving Tree Movement has established its roots, and is now ready to grow.

Founded by Rancho Santa Fe resident Luisa Csathy, the organization is a “community-centric outreach program that empowers parents, educators and thought leaders to rise up, support and learn from one another in order to guide our future generation to live truly authentic and purpose-filled lives.” It aims to provide a platform where parents and experts of various vocations come together to share ideas and gain new perspectives on how to raise children in this complex, fast-paced world through lectures and moderated parent focus groups, while also training youths to be mentors to others and promote core values.

Giving Tree Movement just recently held its first few major events, but the idea for it began to blossom about a year ago, as Csathy — who has two children — reflected on pressures that face families, brought to her attention through several local events.

One of those occasions was a local showing of the documentary “Race to Nowhere,” which features tales of students pushed to edge, instructors who are burned out, and parents in pursuit of what’s best for their children.

“It left a lot of parents feeling unraveled,” Csathy said.

Another motivator was a book signing and question-and-answer session with Madeline Levine, author of “The Price of Privilege.” The book’s main theme is that teens from wealthy families have more intense psychological problems than expected.

“I came home feeling like we had gotten it all wrong,” Csathy said.

But it was a moment at the Rancho Santa Fe Community Center’s Anniversary Gala at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe that ended up providing that final “push” for Csathy to move into action.

She described feeling a sense of “community,” and as she and her husband, Peter, walked by a beautiful tree, he said, “Look at the Giving Tree” — in reference to the children’s book by Shel Silverstein.

That night, Csathy woke up at 3 a.m. and felt the urge to read the tale, which is about a relationship between a boy and an unselfish tree.

“It was after I read the last page of the book where the tree had nothing left but the stump because it had given everything it had, and the last page is, ‘The tree was happy’ — this opened up the flood gates (to start the movement),” she said.

Csathy said she then began to write furiously and came up with the concept of the Giving Tree Movement: to bring people together to see the bigger picture, create a support network and open discussion.

“I was tired of the doom and gloom,” with all the news about education budget cuts and the economy, Csathy said.

She proceeded to set up the organization’s current website within three weeks, pouring her heart and soul into the project.

But once she was done, her thoughts turned to, “OK, now what do I do with this?”

In April 2011, Csathy began talking to people about the concept, which can be described as a Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) for families meets TEDx for parents and educators. YPO is an organization that offers a peer network, mentoring and ongoing education for business leaders under age 45; TEDx refers to independently organized events in which TEDTalks (Technology, Entertainment and Design) videos and live speakers spark deep discussions and connections in small groups.

Giving Tree Movement is an idea of collaboration rather than competition for children as well as parents, Csathy further explained.

Word got around, and the Giving Tree Movement “started taking on a life of its own,” she said. The next year was spent building partnerships, and Csathy began connecting with influential people and “thought leaders” such as Bobbi DePorter, Janet Attwood, Stedman Graham and representatives from the David Lynch Foundation.

On March 29 of this year, the nonprofit’s “kickoff” event was held at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, when Csathy introduced her idea to a larger audience. Among the attendees were the heads of Kids Korps, Quantum Learning Network/Supercamp, Indigo Village, Teen Wisdom Inc., XciteSteps, Janet Attwood and her team of “The Passion Test” trainers, thought leaders, educators, Roger Rowe Superintendent Lindy Delaney and Principal Kim Pinkerton, as well as parents representing all of the Rancho Santa Fe schools.

The event proved to be successful, and another one was held the following month at The Inn at RSF featuring a speech by Attwood, a New York Times best-selling author. She took invitees through a process created to help people discover their passions and life purpose, a key component of Giving Tree Movement’s platform.

Most recently, on July 18, the first moderated parent focus group was held, with Indigo Village founder and President Susie Walton and Teen Wisdom founder Tami Walsh, and moderated by Csathy at her home.

Still in its “beta” phase, there are plans for the Giving Tree Movement to branch out. Csathy explained that the grassroots organization is taking a building block approach of step-by-step ideas and activities, with the goal of bringing families together to focus on their internal structure and success, as well as on community enrichment through leadership and mentorship opportunities.

“What we’re doing within the four walls of the home is absolutely critical to the success of families and our children,” Csathy said.

There will continue to be lectures, along with “trust circle” forums in which individuals can discuss issues in a confidential environment.

“Parents will have an opportunity to talk, open up, and have a venue where they feel supported and find solutions,” Csathy said.

She is also organizing “Family Success Bootcamp” Summits in which thought leaders, youth organizations and inspirational speakers will come together in panel discussions that will address the struggles that parents face in raising children and provide solutions for families to make a difference in their homes and in their lives.

Csathy hopes that people go home and not only talk to one another about what they’ve learned from these events and implement the ideas, but also to start talking with other families about them.

Eventually, she plans to roll out the program throughout San Diego County, with an ultimate goal of going national.

For more information about Giving Tree Movement, go to

www.givingtreemovement.org

or e-mail info@givingtreemovement.org.

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