19th Annual NightLights Tree Lighting Ceremony raises money for local children in need

Camila Nadalet

The 19th Annual NightLights Tree Lighting Ceremony was the perfect way to kick off the month of December this year. The event was held at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Collins and was hosted by the non-profit organization Realities for Children Charities. This organization serves to benefit children in Northern Colorado who have been abused and neglected or are at-risk for such atrocities.

Realities for Children Charities was started in October of 1995 by founder Craig Secher, who spoke at the lighting ceremony Thursday night. Since the genesis of the organization, it has been thriving and doing good for over 4,000 children annually all over Northern Colorado.

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With the help of Realities for Children Charities’ business members and the partnerships they have with 31 Affiliate Youth Agencies, the lighting ceremony is their biggest fundraising event of the year. On average, it raises over $100,000, every penny of which goes to the kids served by the organization.

“It’s really a community event that brings together the business members who help us serve these 31 agencies and all of their clients year round,” said Membership Director of Realities for Children charities Shelley Carroll.

Not only is this ceremony beneficial for Realities for Children Charities, but it is also a wonderful, well-known community event. It has been growing every year since its start 19 years ago and this year had over 1,000 members of the community in attendance.

The event started with a few opening remarks and a prayer delivered by Master of Ceremonies Todd Harding. Following that were a few words by Realities for Children Charities founder Todd Secher, a special guest speaker, and finally the lighting of the NightLights tree.

The tree is 50 feet tall and covered from bottom to top with over 30,000 blue lights, symbolizing the color of child abuse prevention and awareness.

An attentive crowd braves the cold at the 19th annual tree lighting ceremony at the First Presbyterian Church on Thursday night. (Michael Berg | Collegian)
An attentive crowd braves the cold at the 19th annual tree lighting ceremony at the First Presbyterian Church on Thursday night. (Michael Berg | Collegian)

“It is just a wonderful event in the community to actually bring awareness to child abuse in our community, but also to celebrate giving to and supporting these children,” said Youth Activities Coordinator and Marketing Director of Realities for Children Charities.

All 31 of Realities for Children Charities’ partner organizations, including agencies such as The Matthews House, Homeless Gear and Turning Point, were there in support of the event.

Throughout the entirety of the celebration, there were performances by the Ridgeview Madrigal Singers, free cookies and other sweets provided by places such as Daddy Cakes Bakery in Fort Collins, as well as complimentary soup and hot coco. Additionally, Santa Clause made a visit to the event, granting children’s holiday wishes.

Santa made an appearance for the kids at the 19th annual tree lighting ceremony by the First Presbyterian Church on Thursday night. (Michael Berg | Collegian)
Santa made an appearance for the kids at the 19th annual tree lighting ceremony by the First Presbyterian Church on Thursday night. (Michael Berg | Collegian)
Ridgeview Classical Choir students perform Christmas carols at the 19th annual tree lighting for the First Presbyterian Church on Thursday night. (Michael Berg | Collegian)
Ridgeview Classical Choir students perform Christmas carols at the 19th annual tree lighting for the First Presbyterian Church on Thursday night. (Michael Berg | Collegian)

When it finally came time to light the tree, the crowd went quiet and a few seconds later the countdown began. There was an evident joy and happiness in the air, despite the fact that the temperature was well below a comfortable temperature.

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After the countdown was over, the tree lit up with all of its blue lights and attendees of the ceremony were overtaken with positive emotions. Smiles lit up the faces of all the children and adults alike.

This event was inspiring and revealing, opening the eyes of Fort Collins community members to the realities of issues such as child abuse.

With the help of all business members, organizations and supporters involved in this event, it has turned into quite the success that only continues to see more success year after year.