12.17.2014

Holiday Magic Shines the Spotlight on Foster Kids’ Stories

By Tiffany Greenleaf Koenig, Treehouse Volunteer

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Every year in December, Treehouse and KIRO Radio team up for the Holiday Magic radiothon, an exciting day-long event that raises funds to purchase gifts for children in foster care. For many of these kids, the holidays are a painful time and a reminder of the families they have lost. A personally chosen gift can help them fit in with their peers and let them know that they haven’t been forgotten. For caregivers who struggle financially, the ability to provide a gift is a special pleasure.

On Thursday, December 11, the radiothon raised a record-breaking $505,100 from callers ranging from Seattle to Spokane. With these funds, Treehouse will be able to purchase gifts for 7,000 children in foster care across Washington state.

Holiday-Magic-1

Excitement was in the air during the event as local celebrities dropped by and donors gave generously to improve children’s lives. Mike McCready of Pearl Jam called in to show his support and donated an autographed guitar. Seattle Sounders announcer Ross Fletcher and FC players Zach Scott and Stefan Frei made appearances and answered phones. Local performers Ivan & Alyosha, Cataldo, Kris Orlowski, V. Contreras, The Matt Bacnis Band, The Classic Crime, and others kept the energy high.

Sounders Goalkeeper Stefan Frei on Phone

V. Contreras

The radiothon was also an empowering opportunity for a few courageous treehouse students to visit the KIRO studio and speak on-air about their experiences with Treehouse. They had the chance to meet the hosts and even explore a career in broadcasting.

Shelby and Katie

One Treehouse student, Almeisha, made the life-changing decision at thirteen to leave her neglectful family home and enter foster care. Although her home life improved, she struggled academically. Her Treehouse education specialist, Mike, helped her understand how critical a high school education was to achieving her dream of becoming a music producer. With his support and a lot of hard work, her grades improved. This year Almeisha received the Washington State Governors’ Scholarship and graduated from high school, and now attends Seattle Central College with the goal of transitioning to a four-year school. “Thanks to Treehouse, I’ve now completed my first quarter of college successfully,” Almeisha announced on air.

Almeisha on Holiday Magic

In high school, Desiree had determination and drive, but needed guidance to overcome obstacles and finish high school strong so she could prepare for higher education. As part of the Graduation Success program, Desiree worked with her Education Specialist Devin to keep up with deadlines and stay on track in applying for scholarships. Devin also helped Desiree’s transition to college go smoothly by checking in with her and ensuring she had everything she needed for her dorm room. Desiree has also shopped in the Wearhouse for clothes that help her feel confident, and the Little Wishes program has provided her with free tickets to sporting events and activities. Desiree now attends Seattle University as a biology major on a full-ride scholarship as part of their Fostering Scholars program, and she hopes to become a veterinarian.

Desiree

Talaya discovered a passion for helping others while interning at her school’s cafeteria and Easter Seals Childhood Development Center, where she assisted high-need students and children with disabilities. After spending last year balancing two internships, college applications, volunteer work, and learning skills to live independently, Talaya was overjoyed to receive her high school diploma this past June. While she dreams of one day becoming a foster parent and opening a group home for teens, she currently attends Seattle Vocational Institute in their Medical Assistant program.

Talaya and Ana Lucia on Kiro

The radiothon also welcomed caregivers into the studio. Kate Hromada, who has fostered eleven kids, believes that being adopted herself contributed to her desire to help kids who have had a rough start in life. The foster children in Kate’s care have been supported by the Holiday Magic program on and off over the years. Last year, Treehouse Education Specialist Jill Lahmann helped Kate’s 14-year-old foster son Jamie start planning for his future and engaging with his peers. She also connected him with sports programs subsidized by the Little Wishes program. Gradually Jamie’s grades improved. Now that he has transitioned to his birth home, Jill has connected him with an Education Specialist in his new town to keep him on track for future success.

After 26 years, the Holiday Magic program is still making a big difference for kids in foster care—and its impact goes beyond the purchase of gifts. The radiothon also raises awareness in our community for Treehouse programs that help students like Almeisha, Desiree, and Talaya thrive not just during the holidays, but all year long.

Jiffy Lube volunteers

We’d like to say a big thank you to our sponsors, Carter Subaru, D.R. Horton Seattle, GEICO, and the Safeway Foundation for their support. As always, we also want to thank KIRO for their dedication and longstanding partnership which make this event possible. As Treehouse CEO Janis Avery said, “We are so grateful for the KIRO Radio team and listeners for helping Treehouse brighten the holidays for more than kids in foster care across Washington State once again this year.

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About the Author

Tiffany Greenleaf Koenig is a freelance writer with a special interest in nonprofit communications. She has generously shared her time and talent as a volunteer supporting the Treehouse blog. She lives in Enumclaw with her husband, Patrick, and their mischievous border collie, Sam.


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