‘Trees of Hope’ fundraiser benefits organ donor effort

Kristy vandenberg, executive director for Ultimate Gift of Life, puts the finishing touches on one of her sponsor’s “Tree of Hope.”

Ultimate Gift of Life Executive Director Kristy Vandenberg is once again combining her love for the holidays with her passion for raising awareness about the importance of organ donation to create “Trees of Hope,” a fundraiser for her nonprofit.

The Ultimate Gift of Life was formed six years ago and is dedicated solely to raising awareness about the importance of becoming a registered organ donor.

“At the present time, there eare still over 10,000 Texans waiting for an organ and almost 109,000 individuals across the country needing a lifesaving transplant,” Vandenberg said. “Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have continued to share information online and through virtual presentations.  We hope to start attending events again in 2021 and we need help to fund this activity.”

During her tenure, Vandenberg said her organization has registered more than 5,050 new organ donors and talked to over 18,900 people.

“We have organ recipients right here in Kerrville,” Vandenberg said. “These are people here in our community that might not be alive today if not for the generosity of another person or family who thought to register as an organ donor.”

Vandenberg said there are several residents of Kerr County who are on the national registry waiting list to receive a donor organ.

“We have friends who need a kidney and are being kept alive by dialysis,” Vandenberg said. “It’s just a difficult way to live. I am passionate about our cause, so we are working to get everyone registered as organ donors.”

That work and effort requires funds and fundraising.

For the holidays, Vandenberg is creating custom “Trees of Hope” for local residents. These are small trees that range from 2 feet to 3 feet in height, easy to move, box and store after the holidays. Then pull them out for 2021 and "instant" decoration. “The exciting thing is that we have a supporter is who has offered to match all funds we raise, so each donation goes twice as far.”

There are several ways to participate in the Trees of Hope Fundraiser. The most important role an individual or business can play is by becoming a sponsor for the table-top trees.

Sponsorships are available at $150 (Bronze), $250 (Silver), $500 (Gold) and $1,000 (Platinum).

Silver Sponsors receive a tabletop tree and recognition. Gold Sponsors receive a custom tree and recognition. Platinum Sponsors receive three custom trees and recognition.

“It’s really a lot of fun,” Vandenberg said. “These are the small trees, that can be customized with color schemes and themes. I shop to find the items and make their tree perfect for them.”

A viewing of all trees and a retail event will be held at Grape Juice on Nov. 19 from 3 p.m.-8 p.m., Nov. 20 and 21 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Those attending can also sponsor at that time and "order" a custom tree.

“We are getting as creative as we can to offer the general public an opportunity to help a good cause and get a special tree of their own,” Vandenberg said. “These trees are perfect for any home, office or apartment.”

Vandenberg said her goal for this fundraiser is $15,000.

“I wouldn’t be doing this and working to raising funds if I didn’t believe in the cause so much,” Vandenberg said. “I’ve seen the end result for both donors and recipients - both stories are amazing.”

Vandenberg said she often fields questions about religious or philosophical opposition to registering to become an organ donor.

“I just ask those people to talk to their pastor or priest,” Vandenberg said. “There’s nothing more God-like than giving someone else the gift of life. And, you are never too old to donate. The oldest donor in Texas was more than 100 years old."

To donate to Trees of Hope or to The Ultimate Gift of Life, or to find out how to register to become an organ donor, visit theultimategiftoflife.com.

Call or email Vandenberg with any questions at 792-9197 or kristy@theultimategiftoflife.com.

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