By Megan Rule | Staff Writer
Christmas tree decorating will take on a whole new meaning with The Giving Trees Festival on Saturday and Sunday, a new fundraising event that will help differently-abled individuals and families in the Central Texas area live more independently through home modification. This year’s fundraiser will benefit the Copp family.
Melissa Copp, event coordinator and mother of two boys who will benefit from this event, said she is working with Heart of Central Texas Independent Living on The Giving Trees Festival. She said the fundraiser came from the need to build her sons a fully wheelchair-accessible home. Through partnering with Heart of Central Texas Independent Living, a Central Texas nonprofit, they were able to make the event happen. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday in the Ranger Room in the Waco Convention Center where people can view and purchase the donated decorated trees.
“The Copp boys have never been able to access all of their home for their own use,” Copp said in an email to the Lariat. “Consultants have come inside our home just to tell us it’s too much to remodel to make accessible. For the last two years, we have been actively searching for an accessible home to continue to raise the boys in.”
Calan and Lawson Copp were born with a very rare mitochondrial condition that went undiagnosed for six and a half years, Copp said. Their condition requires them to use wheelchairs and walkers all the time due to spastic and low muscle tone in their legs. Cops said there is no cure or prognosis, and the boys require physical, occupational and speech therapy as well as adaptive equipment.
“Imagine your children never being able to access their own backyard, wash their hands in their bathroom or bake cookies in the kitchen with their mom. That is the heartbreaking and unbearable situation our family is in,” Copp said. “We have met with numerous builders and have seen dozens and dozens of homes until we found the one they could call home. The home met all the criteria for us to make accessible. However, we need help raising the funds to make it the dream home our boys need to live in.”
The event website describes the event as a “wonderland of inspiring and creative Christmas trees.” Local businesses, churches, organizations and individuals have submitted trees to support the event and to be judged and sold at a buy-now price, meaning the price is set in stone, in the contest. Trees that haven’t been sold will be auctioned off after judging on Sunday. The event features guest judges Senator Brian Birdwell and Christi Proctor from TLC’s Trading Spaces. According to the event website, funds raised will help aid in the purchase of roll-under bathroom sinks, a roll-under kitchen island, an accessible shower and integrated ramps at the front and back doors of the home.
“I think just the opportunity to bring people together and to celebrate a lot of wonderful lives is important because we’re all here to love and serve each other in the name of our Lord,” said Julie Melton, owner and director of Hope and Believe Therapy, a champion sponsor of the event. “Just spreading the message of love and of Jesus is exciting, and it’s a great season to do that. It’s all about giving and showing love.”
Admission is a $5 donation at the door both Saturday and Sunday. Some of the categories the trees will compete for include Most Valuable Tree (a.k.a. the tree that raises the most money), Best Use of Lighting, Most Colorful Tree and Most Surprising Tree. Companies such as Hey Sugar! Candy Store, Barefoot Campus Outfitters and Mary Kay will decorate custom trees. A full list of categories, tree decorators and sponsors can be found on the event’s website.
“This year, we decided to be a sponsor. We are not decorating a tree; we just contributed a financial donation to be a sponsor. The Copp family is a family we knew, so we wanted to honor them,” Melton said. “We just feel really blessed to be in a position to give. With any business there are ups and downs, and for us to be in a position to help support this event is a blessing, and we’re very honored.”