Two New Zealand projects are to benefit from an international fundraising project by fans of The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) films.

The fundraising has helped kick off Wellington City Council’s commemorative tree scheme, and will also provide more than US$800 to the organ donation awareness group GiveLife.

Coordinator Stephanie Blevins, in the United States, says the fundraising was a way for LOTR fans on the website (TORN) to say thank you to Peter Jackson for creating such a successful film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book.

“We just wanted to thank Peter Jackson so much for making these films. The fans are such wonderful and giving people and they saw this as a great opportunity to show their appreciation in a tangible way.

“The response has been incredible. Fans from around the world have contributed to the fundraising, which shows you just how widely the films have touched people,” says Stephanie.

Wellington City Council’s commemorative tree scheme was chosen as one of the beneficiaries of the fundraising as a salute to Professor Tolkien, who was an avowed environmentalist. Eleven kauri trees will be planted in Willowbank Park in Tawa, at 2pm on September 2 – the 11 trees comprise nine for the ‘Fellowship of the cast and crew’ of the films, and one each for Peter Jackson and Professor Tolkien (while also honouring the 11-Oscar sweep of The Return of the King).

The GiveLife foundation was chosen as Peter Jackson has publicly supported the issue of organ donation in New Zealand.

Erica Challis, the Kiwi co-founder of TORN, says the fundraising is an example of how the Internet can enable people who are widely separated by distance to collaborate on projects that are dear to their hearts, and she congratulates the fans for their initiative.

“As a Tolkien website, we’re aware of the Professor’s love of trees and his distress at the way urban development comes so often at the expense of many beautiful old trees. So there’s no question he would have approved of a tree-planting effort in his honour.

“As for organ donation, Peter Jackson has known a number of people to whom this is a life or death issue, and we applaud his efforts to help publicise the problem with low donor rates in New Zealand. It’s a problem that doesn’t need to exist, and wouldn’t exist if there were more awareness of the organ donation process.”

Says Andy Tookey of GiveLife: “I’m extremely grateful for the support and generosity that LOTR fans have contributed to the cause of helping save lives in New Zealand. With their support we have been able to advance the cause quite significantly in recent times.”

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast says she is delighted that Wellington City Council’s commemorative tree programme was chosen as a beneficiary of the LOTR international fundraising project.

“This is a very generous gesture and we thank the fans for it. As this is the very first commemorative tree planting it is very special. It is honouring one of Wellington’s most loved sons, Peter Jackson, while at the same time commemorating Professor Tolkien. We, in Wellington, are very proud of our association with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The trees will be planted at Willowbank Park and I am sure this park will become another very popular LOTR site for tourists and residents to visit,” she says.

Since the release of the LOTR movies, fans have travelled to New Zealand to see for themselves the places where key scenes were filmed. Both Stephanie and Erica expect the kauri trees in Willowbank Park to attract fans from TORN who wish to see what their fundraising efforts have achieved.

Says Erica: “The way Tolkien wrote, the way Peter Jackson’s team made the movies, the way Lord of the Rings fandom developed, and the way was developed by enthusiasts: these are all things that were done out of a sense of fun and sheer delight in being creative. All things that people did from following their own inclinations – and yet they’ve given an enormous amount of benefit and pleasure to millions of people. One should never underestimate the power of creative joy.”

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Anyone wanting to support the commemorative tree scheme should contact WCC’s Visitor Services and Events Coordinator for Parks and Gardens, Amanda White, on +64 4 472 5684 or Donations to GiveLife can be made via the website