BY AUSTIN RUFF
The Arc of the Central Plains is holding their third annual Festival of Trees and Holiday market this week. The event started November 12 and runs through tomorrow. Those interested can bid online for handcrafted holiday decorations.
The Arc of the Central Plains is an organization committed to bringing enrichment and purpose to the lives of all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through participation in activities, education and lifelong inclusion in every aspect of community life. The Arc hosts numerous events throughout the year, including six Special Olympics sports– basketball, bowling, cheerleading, softball, track, and volleyball–, as well as a 5K Club, bingo, disk golf, dance night, and Special Needs Easter Egg Hunt.
Beginning each January, usable items begin being sorted out of donations made to The Arc Thrift Stop. In June, volunteers Donna McKenzie and Joane Heier began crafting the beautiful holiday decorations from the donated materials. These decorations include Christmas trees, wreaths, porch and table decor, and many other holiday decorations.
“They have made somewhere around 200 items this year. It’s very exciting,” Arc Executive Director Kathy McAdoo said.
Three years ago, the Festival of Trees featured only 13 trees, but with increased public enthusiasm and the introduction of online bidding during the pandemic, the fundraiser has seen enormous growth.
McAdoo said The Festival of Trees raised around $8,000 last year, but that the fundraiser was already nearing that threshold as of Monday morning. The proceeds raised by the Festival of Trees will go toward completing Phase Three of the Hays Accessible Recreation Complex. The park aims to provide a safe, fun environment for people of all ages and abilities.
The complex will include a fully accessible playground for limitless play, an all-ability turf baseball field, and a fully accessible recirculated splash pad. The playground and splash pad were completed earlier this year, and the money raised will help complete the accessible turf baseball field.
“It has been an honor to turn what many people consider trash into beautiful treasure,” McKenzie said, “It’s been very rewarding.”
All trees will be shrink-wrapped before being transported to prevent breaking. Those wishing to participate in the auction can do so by visiting haysarcpark.org and clicking the “Festival of Trees and Holiday Market” banner. Bidding ends on Wednesday, November 17, at 5:00 p.m. Winners can claim their items at The Arc of the Central Plains at 600 Main Street from Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. before November 20.
Donations to the Arc of the Central Plains can be dropped off at the Thrift Shop and can include clothing, small furniture and appliances, blankets, linens, books, dishes, and miscellaneous items. The Thrift Shop continues to be the main source of income for the organization, so any form of support is greatly appreciated.
“We hope to have a great turnout,” said McKenzie, “Bid more and bid higher!”