Group of people at a tree dedication at the Riverfront YMCA

A pin oak tree can live up to 120 years. The life cycle of a legend is infinite. Both timelines are integral to the Green Man Tree Planting Project of the Celtic Club, who were instrumental in planting four such species in varying locations in Northeast Ohio, including the Riverfront YMCA.

Why? To honor those who were rooted here and who grew to bring fame and honor far beyond this region through their perseverance and strength. Cleveland native and 1936 Olympian and 4-time medal winner Jesse Owens was one such hero, as were KSU Golden Flashes Bill Cox and his lifetime friend John Collver, who both excelled during the 1948-50 basketball season.

Collver (pictured above in the middle of the top row), who is a long-time member of the Riverfront YMCA, was honored by a tree planted on the property in honor of Jesse Owens, Bill Cox, and himself. Similar trees were also planted at Kent State, the University of Akron, and Visitation of Mary Parish in Akron.

Collver’s son, Jim, is the president of the Celtic Club. He explained that the Green Man Project is intended to promote the tree canopy of the community, with the name tied to Celtic mythology, where the Green Man represents rebirth.

So, it’s fitting that they Y was selected as a place for this tree to awaken and thrive.

“The Y’s mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all. In many ways, this is how Jesse Owens, Mr. Cox, and Mr. Collver lived their lives. They led by example and inspired us for who they were and what they stood for. Our hope is that tree will be a symbol and inspiration for all of us to stand strong – in whatever we do in life,” said Ryan Reavy, Executive Director of Riverfront YMCA.