During the week of Thanksgiving, the Ogden Eccles Conference Center is filled with Christmas trees and festive decorations for the Weber School Foundation’s annual Christmas Tree Jubilee.
The Weber School Foundation is an independent, educational non-profit that holds a few events throughout the year to fundraise for special education opportunities and needs in the district, the biggest of which being the Christmas Tree Jubilee.
“We serve 33,000 students in Weber School District, and our mission is to raise and provide funds to add enhanced educational opportunities to their school experience,” Emily Oyler, executive director of the Weber School Foundation, said.
The week-long Christmas tree extravaganza starts on Monday with volunteers setting up and decorating the donated trees and other items. On Tuesday, the organization holds a gala where their invited donors can come and purchase the donated trees and wreaths. On Wednesday and Friday, skipping Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday, the trees are open on display for the public.
During those public days, any unsold trees can be bought by members of the public. The Weber School Foundation also had raffle tickets available for purchase for visitors to put towards gift baskets and other designated items.
Michelle Darrington, communications and development director for the Weber School Foundation, said the funds from the trees and wreaths that are sold go towards purchasing adaptive equipment like wheelchairs and iPads for students with special needs. Other funds and auction sales from the Christmas Tree Jubilee go towards the Weber School Foundation programs as a whole, providing school grants and funding things like Hope Squads and field trips.
“The impact is significant — we’re able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in this one week to support students in Weber School District, and the funds go to things that are not normally provided through district funding but are necessary just the same, so we’re able to help fill in that gap,” Oyler said.
Oyler also said that, this year, the organization has a focus on funding wellness spaces in each school, providing a place for kids to decompress and get into a better head-space on a rough day.
“The more that we can support our young people and the efforts that the teachers are making to help them to be successful, the better it is long term for our community,” Jenna Andrascik, volunteer and Weber School Foundation board member, said. “Those are the future of our community, and we need to do everything we can to support the teachers that are helping them and the kids and their motivations and their successes.”
Oyler said there were 69 trees and almost 10 wreaths in total this year. Each tree and wreath sported a different theme, ranging from religious, to country Christmas, to Disney. Some were dedicated to special needs kids or those who have passed on. After viewing trees, visitors could head through the adjoined hallway to enjoy some free, festive performances in Peery’s Egyptian Theater.
Oyler and Darrington said the event wouldn’t be possible without the “labor of love” provided by the many volunteers and community members who donate time and money to the cause. Andrascik said the holiday kick-off event has always been a great place for everyone to come together and share their talents in a spirit of giving.