Birkie #39- Honoring Marshall Saunder’s Legacy

From Paul Thompson, Co-Director of Cool Planet:

Every year at this time I feel like a serious athlete as I train diligently for the American Birkebeiner Ski Marathon. Skiing 55 km on the world famous “Birkie” trail is no joke and at 71 it will take me 6-7 hours depending on how much I choose to rest, eat and talk with others about my other mission: motivating skiers and the Birkie community to take action on Climate Solutions.  You can make a donation here – add “Birkie” in the note.

Paul and Marshall in June 2019

This year our world lost a great man and inspirational leader of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), Marshall Saunders. I also lost a dear friend and major supporter of the work we do together. Marshall Saunders was 80 years old when he ended his 7-year battle with cancer at his home in Coronado, CA

I met Marshall in the early 80s as volunteers with RESULTS, the ending hunger and poverty lobby group that has been effective in securing funding for legislation to eradicate childhood death by starvation and preventable diseases.

Marshall’s contributions to empowering people to lift themselves out of poverty were huge and at the same time

Marshall with Paul, Mindy and David Holmquist at the CCL National Conference in DC.

he saw that the same citizen empowerment needed to be catalyzed around climate solutions. With the help of Sam Daley-Harris the founder of RESULTS, Marshall created CCL and it’s mission “to create the political will for a livable world.”

With it’s bi-partisan message of all people working together to find common ground and solutions based on respectful dialogue, CCL and it’s tax exempt sister organization Citizens’ Climate Education (CCE) is bridging the political divide to bring people together on this essential issue. Please read more about Marshall’s life and work here.

My response to Marshall’s death is to keep his story and legacy alive in my life and work.

Marshall’s picture on my ski and I’m ready for Birkie 2020

After speaking to Marshall’s wife Pam and children Britt and Lucy and receiving their approval I will be raising funds for CCE and Cool Planet Skiers (a 50-50 split) through skiing my 39th Birkie this year.

Cool Planet Skiers is doing the work to get people of all ages outside to enjoy the season that makes Minnesota and Wisconsin famous, cold and white. As skiers (dog sledding, ice fishing, pond hockey, etc.) connect more with nature and the things they love to do they can’t help but be impacted by the rapid changes in temperature, snow cover and the dependence on snowmaking to secure the continuation of the sport we love.

Learning to manage their family’s carbon footprint and build neighborhood action through our Simple Steps resource sheet often leads people to work for eco friendly policies with their school boards, city councils and all elected officials and business leaders.

As a Community Impact Partner of the Edina Community Foundation (ECF) your contributions to Birkie #39 are tax deductible and can be made here – add “Birkie” in the note.  Or save fees and send a check payable to “Cool Planet – ECF” to 4244 Crocker Ave, Edina, MN 55416.

Paul with Brett Cease at the Birkie finish line in 2019

Please consider sharing one new eco friendly action that you will take this year, because without a major upgrade in bi-partisan citizen involvement we can’t provide our kids and future generations with the future they deserve.
Thanks for reading this and honoring the life and legacy of Marshall Saunders.

On my long journey thru the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, I will be thinking of Marshall and all of your contributions and commitments to take action in your neighborhoods. All of it will get me to the finish line on main street Hayward WI on Feb 22, 2020, tired and still smiling.


Marshall Saunders Legacy Project
Birchleggings Club Board Member (skiers with 20+ Birkies)