Boy’s vision evolves into multinational nonprofit

Before dying of cancer in 1989, Clinton Hill's vision was to lead an organization that would educate people about the Earth and encourage them to perform activities to help its fragile ecosystem. Photo supplied

Before dying of cancer in 1989, Clinton Hill’s vision was to lead an organization that would educate people about the Earth and encourage them to perform activities to help its fragile ecosystem. Photo supplied

Clinton Hill, as described by his mother Tessa Hill, was a gentle person, one who wanted to use his life to make a difference in the world.

At the age of 10, Clinton Hill, a nature lover who called himself a “defender of the planet” started a group at his school called “Kids for Saving Earth.”

His aim with the group was to raise awareness about the Earth’s fragile ecosystem and hopefully encourage his peers at his school in New Hope and others to practice various forms of conservation.

He died of cancer at the age of 11, never seeing his dream come to full fruition.

But even with his passing, Kids for Saving Earth lived on.

Tessa Hill, a North Branch resident, took over the reigns of Kids for Saving Earth not long after her son’s death in 1989.

“When he died, I just decided to do that as a memorial to him, rather than lots of flowers,” she said.

At the time of her son’s death, she and her family were living in Houston for half of the year and Minnesota the other half.

Left to right: Twyla Ring, who edits many of Kids for Saving Earth’s publications, Tessa Hill and Meagan Rollins, a recent North Branch Area High School graduate who works part time with the organization. Tessa Hill employs high school students on a regular basis to work for the nonprofit and said she’s always looking for students interested in being a part of Kids for Saving Earth.  Photo by Derrick Knutson

Left to right: Twyla Ring, who edits many of Kids for Saving Earth’s publications, Tessa Hill and Meagan Rollins, a recent North Branch Area High School graduate who works part time with the organization. Tessa Hill employs high school students on a regular basis to work for the nonprofit and said she’s always looking for students interested in being a part of Kids for Saving Earth.
Photo by Derrick Knutson

William Hill, Tessa Hill’s husband, was Harvard graduate who had experience in business, so with his help Kids for Saving Earth got off the ground and expanded rapidly.

People with an interest in the environment — which included many teachers — were ordering booklets, CDs and other supplies from Kids for Saving Earth, which they used to teach others about the planet.

Large sponsors also came into the mix, too, which helped the nonprofit produce many of the materials it made available.

Then another tragedy struck.

In 1994, at the age of 48, William Hill died of cancer.

Tessa Hill had to reduce the scope of Kids for Saving Earth after his death for a time, but when the Internet took hold in the mid-1990s, managing the nonprofit became easier.

Kids for Saving Earth then expanded to a global scale.

Today, the organization has thousands of clubs with hundreds of thousands of members, doing just what Clinton Hill had in mind — saving the earth.

“I use the term ‘turning education into action,’” Tessa Hill said, adding that she still receives letters from people who are inspired by her son’s story.

“Your family’s tragic loss is one I can’t imagine going through,” Sharon Root, a recycling educator, from Marshall, wrote to Tessa Hill recently.  “To know that you felt Clinton’s passion for environmental care and started this kid’s club is so admirable and such a tribute to your son! It’s wonderful!”

Kids for Saving Earth has been based out of North Branch for the past six years, ever since Tessa Hill married Dennis Johnson, whose previous wife, Janet Johnson, a former state senator from North Branch, also died of cancer.

Those who would like to learn more about Kids for Saving the Earth can visit www.kidsforsavingearth.org, email kseww@aol.com or call 763-559-1234.

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