GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Through all of the festive magic provided at the Gatlinburg Festival of Trees, they provide more holiday magic by donating majority of their proceeds to the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains.
“This is just an opportunity for people to come out and get in the spirit of Christmas and help children at the Boys and Girls club,” Mark Ross, the CEO of the organization said.
This year marks the 49th Gatlinburg Festival of Trees. Last year the event was able to raise $50,000 for the Boys & Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains. It’s funding that helps kids in more ways than one.
“We have five clubhouses in Sevier County and serve 1700 kids, and the kids pay about a quarter of the cost of what it costs us to operate the clubs,” Ross said.
When breaking it down even further, each child costs about $1200 to host at the boys and girls club. It’s a fee that is covered largely by donations, so families don’t have to worry, allowing the kids to learn more than what’s taught in a classroom.
“We help kids achieve excellence in education, we teach kids job skills, life skills, cultural arts, fitness and athletics,” Ross said. “It’s really a second home for kids and they can go for 12 years. From the time they’re six to the time they’re eighteen.”
Ryanne Roberts is 15 and has been with BGC for eight years now. It’s years she said she’s thankful for.
“It’s really helped me grow and it means a lot to me and I really love the staff,” Roberts said.
It’s what Roberts has been able to gain that the Boys and Girls Club of the Smoky Mountains hope to continue sharing with the kids now and for years to come.
“We try to open kids’ eyes to as many things as humanly possible so that they can find their way in life.” Ross said.
A portion of the funds also goes to the Gatlinburg Chamber Foundation.