WAVERLY – Ten years ago, an evergreen was planted by the Waverly Community Building. This year, that tree stands about 16 feet tall, and is ready to start the holiday season with a tree lighting ceremony that includes a visit from Santa.
On Sunday, Dec. 1, the Waverly Dare to Share Foundation hosts the Community Tree Lighting at the Waverly Community Building, with a full schedule of activities for all ages.
Tom French, a co-founder of the Waverly Dare to Share Foundation with his wife, Lisa, said about 500 people attend the event each year.
“We typically put about 225 to 250 people on Santa’s lap,” said French, who estimated the total based on the number of children visiting Santa and their accompanying parents, grandparents or other relatives.
Admission to the event is one can or box of nonperishable food. The food is donated to the pantry at Waverly Methodist Church, French said.
The majority of the festivities are held indoors, which is a benefit when the weather is unpleasant. Sunday’s forecast predicts the high for the day to be just below freezing. French said a DJ will be there, and he will be playing more than just holiday music as he warms things up with a little dancing.
“He tries to get the kids up to dance a little bit,” French said.
There will also be a craft station where children can create a small ornament or other holiday craft.
“It’s something small, quick to make and simple,” French explained.
There will be a raffle with lots of small prizes and two grand prizes – a boys and a girls bicycle, French said.
There will also be plenty of food, including pulled pork sandwiches from Parker’s Smokehouse, hot dogs, chips, cookies and beverages like hot cocoa, lemonade, coffee and water.
The festivities are topped off with the tree lighting. The tree is decorated with hundreds of lights placed by Tom and Lisa French, co-foundation board members Rod and Cindy Meier, and other family and friends.
French said the Dare to Share group found a 12-foot tree to place near the community center a decade ago so the tree lighting ceremony would continue for many years.
“It was planted for the tree lighting with the help of the Chamber of Commerce and the Community Center,” he said.
It takes about 15 to 20 volunteers to prepare for and run the tree lighting event. French said his daughters, Cheyenne and Ashley, are among those volunteers.
“They’re both very involved in it and it’s given them good perspective that when you can, you help others,” French said.
French’s daughters also help with the other events Dare to Share does throughout the year. Also at Christmas time, the organization runs its Holiday Wishes program, which they have done for the past eight years.
“It matches families that need a little bit of help at Christmas with families that want to help a little bit at Christmas,” French said.
The Dare to Share organization was founded 10 years ago by Tom and Lisa French to help students in District 145.
“It resolves around youth within the school district,” he said.
Among the programs Dare to Share supports is the Backpack Program for District 145 students. The organization also grants community service scholarships to seniors.
To raise funds, Dare to Share co-hosts a fireworks stand during the Fourth of July holiday and for the past 10 years has operated a car show every June. But French said they will not be doing the car show in 2020.