Festival of Trees underway


TORRINGTON – Gracie’s Promise is hosting its 13th Annual Festival of Trees from Nov. 26-Dec. 12. Follow the Christmas trail into our local businesses to vote on your favorite decorated trees, wreaths, and other decorations. All proceeds go to benefit children suffering from catastrophic illnesses.

“We have many unique trees this year,” Gracie’s Promise President Mary Houser said. “Each one has been done with love and support for Gracie’s Promise.”

This year’s tree locations are Bear Creek Guys and Dolls in LaGrange, Blue Bird Boutique, Bomgaars, Century Lumber, Chamber of Commerce, Community Drug, Cottonwood Country Club, Farm Girls Boutique, First American Title, First State Bank, Goshen County Library, Heartland Embroidery, Moose Lodge, Pinnacle Bank, Platte Valley Bank, Print Express, Inc, Sew Addicting, This, That and Then Some, 307 Bar and Restaurant, Torrington Office Supply, Town Square, 21st Century Equipment, and Wagner’s Floral.

There is a wide array of amazing Christmas trees and other décor located at these businesses. A few of the trees include a tree with wooden ornaments created by Torrington High School student Grady Shields, a candy cane tree, and a sewing mannequin tree. Some of the other décors include a holiday wreath, miniature word trees, and a Christmas quilt.

All of the items are created by members of the community, donated to the organization, and then auctioned off in a silent auction. The auction will close in each location on Dec. 12 at varying times since most of these businesses close at different times. The time the auction closes is written on the auction sheet at each location.

Each business will notify the winner at the end of the auction, receive payment, and then release the item to the winner. 

Houser explained that this fundraiser was started by the Kiwanis Club. In the beginning, Gracie’s Promise joined them by offering cards that were designed by school children. A couple of years later, the Kiwanis Club stopped partaking in the fundraiser and Gracie’s Promise took it over.

“I would say that the fundraiser has been very successful,” Houser reflected. “It has also been well supported by the community.”

All the trees used to be displayed in the Community Room at Platte Valley Bank until Covid changed everything.  At that time, they had to find a different place to display the trees.

“We had no idea what we were going to do until we came up with the idea to have the trees all over town,” Houser explained. “Then that was a great success. Many people who would have probably never gone into the bank, were seeing them and offering to do one. For the businesses, it has also been a more community-wide event, doing it this way.”

“Gracie’s Promise is a Wyoming 501 (c)(3) non-profit charitable organization whose mission is to “give financial assistance to families with children, under 18 years of age, battling catastrophic medical circumstances,” according to www.graciespromise.org.

The website went on to explain, in rural regions like Wyoming, families often have to travel long distances to large urban hospitals for the care of severe illnesses or disabling accidents. This places extreme stress on work schedules, finances, and the emotional and spiritual well-being of the family. Gracie’s Promise was created to help families in this situation.

The idea for the foundation was inspired in 2009, by the struggles of the family of Gracie Claborn.  Before her first birthday, Gracie, of Casper, was diagnosed with a malignant lung mass and leukemia. Gracie’s family traveled back and forth between Casper and Denver, Colorado continuously as she fought cancer.

“Bobby and Leslie (Gracie’s parents), tried to drive back and forth from Casper to Denver for her treatments, but Bobby’s ability to work conflicted with his daughter’s needs, and the financial burden caused them to lose their Casper home, and eventually Bobby’s job in the oil and gas industry,” according to Gracie’s story on www.graciespromise.org.  “After two and a half years of treatments, Gracie was declared in remission.”

Amid the family’s struggles, Gracie’s Great Grandfather Bud Watson was continually working on finding ways to help them. It wasn’t long before he was not only trying to help his own family, but also other families needing the same type of financial assistance.

At this time, the Foundation for the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming provided “Mustard Seed” money to all of its Wyoming churches. The purpose of this money was for the churches to do a project or projects to benefit their communities. As a member of Torrington’s All Saints Episcopal Church, Watson requested for them to help Gracie’s family.

This first act led to the program called Gracie’s Promise. Since then, the program has grown through initial church foundation funding, volunteer work, and multiple fundraisers. As of 2021, Gracie’s Promise has helped almost 100 families.

Some of these fundraisers for Gracie’s Promise include the Annual Festival of Trees, which began in 2010, selling note cards of Watson’s artwork, selling holiday cards created by local school children, poker runs, and 5K runs.

Gracie’s Promise strives “to help sick or injured children live each day with abundant joy, love, and curiosity, with God’s Blessings and grace.”

For more information about Gracie’s Promise go to their website www.graciespromise.org, call them at 307-532-4459 or 307-534-5352 or like them on Facebook.

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