An Enchanted Evening

Uintah Basin Holiday Fundraiser

Deanna Devey | Photos courtesy of Enchanted Forest Nov 16, 2018

For many in Utah’s Uintah Basin, the Christmas season is a time for giving — even for those who have suffered heartbreaking losses.

Local cowboy Braxten Nielsen was paralyzed during a rodeo accident. By donating and auctioning off his own decorated Christmas tree at the annual Enchanted Forest fundraiser in Roosevelt, he raised more than $50,000 for a charity that helps people with spinal cord injuries.

A family whose teenage son died in a car accident also donated a tree. Because their son loved old cars, the family decorated it with rusty car parts, including a grill from a Model T Ford. The tree raised $27,000 to provide scholarships to students at Altamont High School.

“This was probably a 12-foot tree and just the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen,” says Irene Hansen, Duchesne County Economic Development and Chamber of Commerce director and event organizer. “Each tree tells a story that touches your heart.”

She’s seen the Enchanted Forest fundraiser inspire residents to help their neighbors.

“We call the community giving that comes from this event the ‘Love Bubble,’” Hansen says. “It is something magical because you witness the good of people and see them come through in big ways.”  

Decorating for Good Causes

Each November, the Duchesne County Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club organize a dinner and Christmas tree auction to support local charities. In five years, Enchanted Forest has raised more than $1.5 million.

The nonprofits that receive the money provide a decorated tree, either on their own or through a sponsor. The donated trees are then auctioned off, often to local businesses, for about $3,000 to $7,000 per tree. Some companies like Zions Bank, which sponsors the dinner with four other local businesses, have supported the fundraiser since its inception.

“What we do wouldn’t be possible without local businesses and industries willing to support the event and the causes,” Hansen says.

Auction proceeds go directly to charity and support programs such as suicide prevention, low-income housing, Sub for Santa, animal rescue, foster care, Meals on Wheels and Keeping Love in Communities, which pays for cancer patients’ needs that insurance won’t cover.

“The fundraiser doesn’t just benefit five or 10 or 15 people; it benefits 10,000 people,” says David Higginson, branch manager of Zions Bank’s Roosevelt Financial Center and assistant governor of the local rotary club. “Because these funds support nonprofits that have different projects, the event helps more people in need.”

Benefitting Uintah Basin

The auction also supports community initiatives. One tree raised $27,000 to help construct an aquatic center in Roosevelt. Another raised money to add the names of local military service members onto the veterans’ memorial.

Additionally, Enchanted Forest recognizes significant community contributions. This year, Hansen says they will honor the volunteers, first responders, firefighters and donors who provided aid to those affected by the Dollar Ridge Fire that destroyed more than 70 homes this past summer.

Organizers are proud of the fact that the funds raised directly support Uintah Basin residents.

“The money stays here locally to help friends and neighbors,” Higginson says.

Hansen says the most rewarding aspect is hearing people share their stories about how the charities have made a difference.

“I’ve had people put their arm around me during the event and say, ‘Did you know my daughter got money from Keeping Love in Communities when she had cancer, that they helped with tires for her car and paid for her utilities?’” Hansen says. “When that happens, you realize this is a big deal.” 

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