BY RACHAEL GRAY
Holiday lights, beautifully decorated trees and bidders dressed to the nines lined the walls of the ballroom at the Clarion Inn Saturday night.
Supporters of Russell Childhood Development Center came out to check out silent auction items and bid on decorated trees to support the center's tiny-k Early Intervention Program, which serves children from birth to 3 years old with developmental delays and disabilities.
The "evening of magic" Fantasy Tree Festival event featured hors d'oeuvres, silent auctions, a magic show and a live auction with a variety of items donated by southwest Kansas businesses and individuals.
Auction items included jewelry, table wares, Kansas State University and University of Kansas memorabilia and items, and more.
The trees were decorated elaborately with holiday decor. RCDC officials have said some trees go for $3,000 during the auction.
Terry Lee sat at a table, laughing and talking with friends. He said the event is a fun social event and is for a good cause.
"It's a great fundraiser for a great organization. It's good to come out and support the community," he said.
Susan Stoppel sat beside Lee. She and her husband have been coming to the event for a number of years.
She said she had her eye on a number of things at the auction.
"We'll see what happens," she said.
Stoppel said she loves the event.
"And it's for such a good cause," she said.
Deanna Berry, executive director of RCDC, said she hopes the event will clear $50,000 or more.
The event raises money for the agency's tiny-k Early Intervention Program, which includes physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, early interventionists, family liaisons, bilingual paraprofessionals, a nurse, social worker, mental health liaison, administrative assistant and coordinator. The program's services are provided to families with newborns to 3-year-olds at no cost, regardless of income levels, which is why the program relies heavily on several different sources of support. The tiny-k program benefits 12 counties.
Berry said the event is fun for those who come out to support the program.
"I think it's just fun to see people from around the area to turn up and have a good time," she said.
Berry said many of the event-goers have been touched by the program through a loved one or family friend who has benefitted from the tiny-k program.
"The fundraising for this program is essential, and we hope the event does raise awareness. We have wonderful sponsors and support for this," she said.
RCDC also received $35,000 from Finney County United Way to benefit the salaries of early interventionists.
The interventionists fan out across 12 counties in southwest Kansas to help families with children ranging in age from birth to 36 months old, providing services that are not just required by some of the federal grants the organization gets but are crucial for any community, according to Jill Reagle, tiny-k Early intervention coordinator.
These services include physical, occupational and speech-language therapy, early childhood education, feeding and nutrition, hearing and vision, social work and assistive technology.