UTAH

How the Festival of Trees embodies hope and healing for a domestic violence survivor

Nov 30, 2023, 12:00 PM | Updated: 10:17 pm

Festival of Trees Tamra Rachol...

Tamra Rachol stands in front of her tree, Hope in 2020. (Tamra Rachol)

(Tamra Rachol)

SANDY, Utah — For decades, the Festival of Trees has been a Utah holiday tradition. The event is a fundraiser for Primary Children’s Hospital.

Tamra Rachol, a survivor of domestic violence, sees the festival as a space to shed light on topics that are often left behind closed doors and to provide hope for others. 

Creating hope at the Festival of Trees 

Rachol entered her first Festival of Trees in 2020. However, instead of creating a tree in traditional red and green, her tree donned purple and silver. Her goal was to shed light on domestic violence.

She, along with her partner in crime, Kimberly Meier, created a tree for the Festival of Trees. They named it Hope.

“As a survivor of domestic violence, I can tell you, it does not discriminate,” she said of the creation that year. “However, there is hope and help for restoration and healing. Let this tree represent that hope for those who are struggling in silence and the survivors who are still healing.”

Connecting with community

Rachol said she was shocked by how many people were in an abusive relationship or knew someone who was.

“I would have several people come over and ask me what the theme was or why [the tree] was purple. It was heartbreaking and heartwarming to hear their responses,” said Rachol. “Every single one of them that talked to me had known someone in an abusive relationship. And the gratitude that they had for just being willing to spread that awareness; not hide it behind closed doors where it’s just another dirty word that we don’t talk about.”

 She said she wanted to “express love and hope for others.”

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “There are different lives that can be had.”

Thinking happy thoughts

Rachol and Meier decided to switch gears. The pair created a Peter Pan-themed tree for 2022. Rachol is doing it again this year. 

“The name of the tree is ‘Think Happy Thoughts’,” said Rachol. “The idea behind it is mental health awareness. And again, talking about things that are uncomfortable that we tend to keep behind closed doors. And encouraging parents to talk to their children about how they’re really doing, and encouraging parents to check in on themselves.”

One element Rachol is sure to always include is information on the SafeUT app.

“With our Peter Pan tree,  just in case the message is ever missed, I make sure to put a Safe Utah flyer in front of it with a QR code for the app,” said Rachol. “So, anybody walking by… that is maybe struggling with something on that flyer — anxiety, depression or harmful thoughts — they have that right there.”

Last year’s tree brought in a $6,000 donation. This year, Rachol ended up creating the tree solo as her usual creative partner is recovering from heart surgery. 

The “Think Happy Thoughts” tree is complete with Skull Rock, Big Ben, Tinker Bell in a lantern, and a pirate’s treasure chest. 

Creativity and chaos

Rachol said there is a wonderful community created within the Festival of Trees. The festival attracts teams of friends and families of all ages. 

On Nov. 28, the trees were prepped at the Mountain America Expo Center. Rachol said it’s “insanely chaotic” but is probably her favorite day of the year.  

“The atmosphere is nothing but kindness and love. And everybody’s willing to help one another. They have two gentlemen that are called the tree doctors,” said Rachol. “They basically have anything you could need on their persons. And so if you run into a snag, you just ask the volunteers where they’re at, they’ll point you in the right direction, and somebody’s going to help you get it taken care of and volunteers are always so sweet.”

The festival is currently taking place at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy through Saturday.

If you or someone you know is experiencing trouble linked to domestic violence, the following resources are available.

Utah Domestic Violence LINKLine
1-800-897-LINK (5465)
If LINKLine advocates experience an increased call volume, they will forward calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

StrongHearts Native Helpline
1-844-762-8483

Related reading: Since new law began, domestic violence referrals spike 83%

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Utah

A woman found unresponsive by police in Box Elder Creek was pronounced dead at a hospital on Tuesda...

Simone Seikaly

Woman found unresponsive in Box Elder Creek pronounced dead

Brigham City police were investigating a possible missing person when they said they found a body in Box Elder Creek

14 hours ago

FILE: Spectators watch as the Artemis I uncrewed lunar rocket lifts off at NASA's Kennedy Space Cen...

Don Brinkerhoff

Utah company completes solid rocket boosters for NASA’s Artemis

Northrup Grumman says the Arrtemis rocket boosters can carry nearly five metric tons more than the previous boosters. 

14 hours ago

The new West Davis Highway in Davis County on Friday, Jan. 5, 2024. The new 16-mile, four-lane divi...

Tim Vandenack

West Davis Highway gets high marks after 7 weeks; noise still an issue for some

The new 16-mile corridor is a divided, four-lane, limited-access roadway meant in part to ease congestion along I-15.

15 hours ago

FILE: Vietnam War veterans gather for a photograph following a ceremony to recognize and honor Viet...

Eric Cabrera

Veterans can soon sign up for the largest-ever expansion of VA health benefits

On March 5, vets who served in a combat zone, beginning with the Vietnam war, can directly enroll in VA healthcare.

17 hours ago

Utah's avalanche danger has been dangerous for the last week, with the Utah Avalanche Center report...

MICHAEL HOUCK, KSL-TV

Skier severely injured following avalanche near Little Water Peak

A skier was injured after being caught in an avalanche on Monday Feb. 26. The skier was hoisted to safety.

23 hours ago

Liver and kidney transplant patient Luis Campos says he's grateful he had a Spanish-speaking team....

Eric Cabrera

Murray kidney clinic helping the Latino community

MURRAY, Utah — Intermountain Health has taken steps to address healthcare in Latino communities by opening Utah’s first fully Spanish-speaking Kidney Transplant Clinic. The Intermountain Clinica Hispana de Riñon (Hispanic Kidney Clinic), in Murray, aims to provide a space for members of the Latino community navigating the complex kidney transplant process. The clinic has bilingual professionals, […]

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

How the Festival of Trees embodies hope and healing for a domestic violence survivor