A Childhood Thrill, Now Accessible To All
Playing in a tree house is one of the most iconic pleasures of childhood. “Just seeing the smile on kids’ faces being up in the trees is an amazing thing, and it’s great to be able to provide that thrill,” says James “B'fer” Roth, a partner in The Treehouse Guys, which builds wheelchair-accessible tree houses in public parks and at private camps for children. Since 2000 Roth and his business partner, Chris “Ka-V” Haake, have worked together on 32 tree houses in 18 states, many for nonprofit organizations that benefit children.
The idea was suggested by fundraisers for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, who realized that many children with disabilities miss out on the unique childhood experience of playing in a tree house. They approached Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vt., with the idea for an accessible tree house, and Roth, an instructor at the school, became involved with the project. He and Haake worked with all-volunteer labor and donated materials to build the first prototype in the fall of 2000. As the nonprofit Forever Young Treehouses, they completed a project a year for the next three years for camps for disabled children. In the third year they built a tree house for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang charity in rural Connecticut.
“You realize ordinary things such as being in a tree house are not always easy for people with mobility issues,” says Roth. “To create something to enable a person to have that experience is very satisfying and good for the soul.”
In addition to building the tree houses, the nonprofit has helped various charities with fundraising to complete the projects. Recently, Haake and Roth shifted their focus away from fundraising, which clients can do more effectively for themselves in their local communities, to focus on the building and design aspects. The resulting private company is The Treehouse Guys LLC.