The Christmas Tree Project

Root for Kids’ very own Maria DeWitt Gama organized a fundraiser called “Project Christmas Tree”.  Maria understood that while there are plenty of resources for food, clothing, and toys accessible for those in need, the delight of having a Christmas tree with gifts underneath it contributes to the magic of the season.  Maria spoke with a mother whose child asked for a Christmas tree.  The mother had to ask her child if they wanted a tree or a present for Christmas as they didn’t have enough money for both. 

Maria said, “Our Project Christmas Tree goal is to give away as many Christmas trees as possible to the people in our community who need one and can’t afford one. The idea of doing this fundraiser started when I posted our old Christmas tree for free on our local Facebook pages.  The tree was gone within minutes. The person who took it said, “Thank you so much, we have a son who just moved here and doesn’t have a Christmas tree.”  Even though the Christmas tree was already gone, I kept getting hundreds of messages from people who said they needed a Christmas tree.” 

Maria truly exemplifies the spirit of the Root for Kids organization, helping as many families in our wonderful community as possible. She and her family have been working hard to ensure that some families are spared from having to make the difficult decision of giving a gift or the spirit of the holiday in their home.



Have a New or Gently Used Christmas Tree To Donate? 

Do you have a new or gently used Christmas tree that you would like to donate to local families in need?  Connect with us by filling out the Contact Us form below.



The Secret Garden Gala brings hope to many. A recap of the event.

The Secret Garden Gala returned for its annual celebration of warmth, laughter, joy and tears at the lovely Garden Room in the Dixie Convention Center on May 12, 2023. Businesses, non-profits and locals joined together and raised money for the families of Root for Kids. We were honored to have Litehouse Inc return as our Platinum & Presenting Sponsor for the 5th year. Coy Bowles tuned in from Nashville with an inspirational keynote speech (along with an unplugged performance of two songs). All this and more in our recap of Root for Kids 30th Anniversary Secret Garden Gala

Social Hour

At 5:30 our guests arrived to socialize and view our live auction items (over 100 items, generously donated from local businesses and boutiques). After being seated, a delicious dinner of steak and salmon was served. Our evening’s hosts, Susi Lafaele and Ed Tracey welcomed the audience. Susi then shared an emotional personal story about her three nephews, who were enrolled in our Early Intervention program. Their family experienced great improvements. We absolutely love hearing stories of our alumni’s success.

Susi Lafaele shares her family’s Root for Kid story at the Secret Garden Gala.


Community Awards

Root for Kids wouldn’t be where we are today without the help of our local community. Every year, we like to show appreciation to those who give back so much, not only to us, but to the entire Southern Utah community. These are the people, businesses and organizations that received this year’s community awards:

Outstanding Community Partner: BlvdHome

BlvdHome is awarded Outstanding Community Partner at The Secret Garden Gala.

Outstanding Business: Hughes General Contractors

Hughes General Contractors is awarded Outstanding Business at The Secret Garden Gala.

Outstanding Health Partner: Family Healthcare

Family Healthcare is awarded Outstanding Health Partner at The Secret Garden Gala.


Outstanding Volunteer: Susan Sims

Susan Sims is awarded Outstanding Volunteer at The Secret Garden Gala

Outstanding Donor: Hurst Wood Foundation

The Hurst Wood Education Foundation is awarded Outstanding Donor at The Secret Garden Gala.

Gardeners of Hope: James & Ilona Christopherson

James & Ilona Christopherson are awarded the Gardner’s of Hope award at The Secret Garden Gala.

Debbie Justice Legacy Award: Litehouse Inc. (our returning presenting sponsor) 

Litehouse Inc is awarded the Debbie Justice Legacy Award at The Secret Garden Gala.

Litehouse Inc Roots for Kids video.

Keynote Address

This year, we had a very special guest join us from Nashville. Coy Bowles, guitarist, keyboardist, singer, and songwriter for the three-time Grammy Award-winning Zac Brown Band streamed in and gave our attendees a truly inspirational and toe-tappingly great keynote address. Coy is an advocate for literacy, early education, and teacher appreciation, so he fits right in with Root for Kids mission statement. To top it off, Coy donated all 5 of his award-winning children’s books, his children’s album, a signed Zac Brown Band CD, a signed Zac Brown Band LP, and a signed guitar, which was used as this year’s raffle prize! We can’t thank Coy enough for tuning in and making the Secret Garden Gala a magical evening.  

Live Auction

As usual, our live auction became hilariously rambunctious. Susi and Ed were fantastic at keeping the mood light and the bidding high. Trips to Mexico, Canada, the Grand Canyon and Sonoma wine country were in high demand. Our friends at BlvdHome donated a luxurious mattress that raised a lot of paddles. A Parade of Homes limo tour finished the auction and was snapped up quickly.

Our 30th Anniversary – A celebration of our alumni

After the live auction, we were honored to have Cydney Holt speak. Her daughter, Temery is one of our enrolled children. Temery had a rough start on life – open heart surgery and non-verbal delays caused by a rare 22q11 deletion syndrome. With the help of Kindermusik and in-home speech therapy, Temery is now starting to verbalize. Her daughter’s story, like so many other children, is the heart of Root for Kids. Which is why for this year’s Gala video, we wanted to celebrate our alumni of the past 30 years and share several success stories. You can watch the video here. 

Cydney Holt shares her daughter Temery’s Root for Kids story.



Thank You

And with that highly emotional note, we would once again like to say thank you to our sponsors, emcees, donors, gala committee, and volunteers for putting on a great evening. We can’t wait to see you next year!


Throughout the year, we have several events that help raise thousands of dollars for our organization. These events are critical in our success by raising funds for our families in need and organization. The Secret Garden Gala is one of our biggest events. This event simply would not have happened without our sponsors. Litehouse Inc returned for the 5th year as our platinum & presenting sponsor. Litehouse has been one of our most consistent donors through the years and we cannot thank them enough. The American Dream Foundation and BlvdHome were our gold sponsors, and they also belong in this category of donors who consistently help Root for Kids’ mission by being a recurring donor. Watts Construction, Flitch, Albertsons Foundation and Southern Utah Home Builders Association were our silver sponsors, and again recurring donors who show us support year after year. Every sponsorship makes a huge impact in our community, and filling out our bronze sponsorships were Altabank, Snow Jensen & Reece, Charlotte Shelley, Friends of TLC, Utah Tech Nursing, Main Street Insurance, Unite Us, America First Credit Union, Infinite Solutions Inc, Rainbow Sign & Banner, University of Utah Health, Stapley Pharmacy, Ruthy’s Fit Club & Fashion, State Bank of Southern Utah and Infowest. To all of our sponsors, from all of us at Root for Kids, Thank you!

Reading with your 0–12 month old child

Reading is an important step in your child’s developmental process. From motor skills (pointing with finger, turning pages, flipping book over) to cognitive and language learning, reading with your child is a great activity, starting at any age.

How do children react with books from 0-3 years old?

  • 0-6 months: May calm down while a familiar story or rhyme is read.
  • 6-8 months: May begin to explore books by looking, touching, and mouthing. May seem fascinated by a particularly bright picture.
  • 9-11 months: May have a favorite picture—for example of a smiling baby or a familiar-looking object.
  • 12-18 months: May begin turning pages or holding a book as if she is “reading.” May begin saying the word “book” and/or showing a preference for a specific book at bedtime.
  • 24-36 months: May begin anticipating the story. For example, while reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears, your toddler may say, “Just right!” as soon as he sees the picture of Goldilocks spooning up her porridge. She may also request the same story over and over and may pretend to read books on her own or tell you simple stories.**

How soon should I start reading with my child?

“…children who are read to consistently when they are young end up doing better in school.”

-Elizabeth Moore, MD pediatrics

It’s never too early to start. Research has shown that reading to your baby in the womb is linked to early literacy and language skills. Even without the ability to talk, your child is learning about the world around them. Find board books and soft cloth books that your child loves, and can safely play with, chew on, and read with you. With these sturdy books, your child is safe to play with them as they please. No need to worry or say “no”. Let them explore in their own little way.

What if my child isn’t interested when I read to them?

Start building a routine in your everyday life. Use a story, song, or rhyme at bedtime. Make up songs and rhymes when playing or driving in the car. Your kid will begin to love the power of words and sounds. Always be on the lookout for signs and words you can point to and say aloud. Make sure you have books accessible for your child to play and interact with. Don’t force them to read, let them learn on their own terms. You don’t want negative feelings towards reading at their young age.

What if my baby just wants to play with the book?

Their chewing and mouthing are showing you how much they like books. That is how babies explore, with their senses. Chewing and mouthing is normal and is teaching your baby the shape of the book. Books are bright and colorful and are very interesting to a young mind. Your baby is learning all about these square things, full of pictures and sounds.

Article adapted from

** Milestone date from

Top 12 moments of 2022


Kris Evans receives Division of Early Childhood Award

Our very own Kris Evans, who has been with us for 16 years, was awarded the Division of Early Childhood Mentorship award! Kris was flown to Chicago to accept the prestigious and well-deserved award in person.

What mentees say about Kris:

“Kris is a patient and caring mentor, that pushes her mentees to excellence, while helping them feel empowered and confident in their own skill set. She is always eager to answer questions and help-out, no matter how simple or difficult the task may be.”

Kris exemplifies the dedication and service that all of us here at Root for Kids strive for. Congratulations, Kris!

San Juan County Early Intervention contract is granted to Root for Kids

On July 1st, Root for Kids was awarded the contract to San Juan County’s Early Intervention program. This Early Intervention program has served San Juan County for over 30 years. Early Intervention provides services to children who are showing developmental delay or who have a condition strongly linked to developmental delay, such as Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or Autism. Jurea Ben, Tymra Butt and Lacey Haas are our new team representatives for Root for Kids at our office Blanding. We couldn’t be more honored to have this opportunity to help the families and expand our reach in Southern Utah. 

Jordane Bromley earns Bachelor of Science in Nursing and oversees Early Head Start pregnant women

Jordane started with us 8 years ago as a home visitor, soon after she moved to the health services as a health services assistant. Just last September, Jordane graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. In her new position, Jordane oversees all Early Head Start pregnant women. Root for Kids is excited to have another RN on board and would like to congratulate Jordane once more on her dedication and accomplishments.

Bloom and Grow completes successful first year

First pregnancies can be a difficult journey on your own. Helping young pregnant mothers has been on the docket here at Root for Kids for a while. We had seen similar programs up in Salt Lake City having success and knew that it was something that needed to be available down here in our ever-growing population. With the help of a grant from our friends at Three Corners Women’s Giving Circle and our Registered Nurses, we were able to start a bi-weekly program. We are happy to be a guiding light for these young parents and are thrilled to see support of the program in our community. If you or anyone you know would like to know more about our Bloom and Grow program, fill out a form here.

Celebrated 20 year partnership with Utah Tech Dental Hygiene Program

In 2022 Root for Kids and Utah Tech University Dental Hygiene Program celebrated 20 years of community partnership. Many families’ lives have been changed by the dental hygiene clinic and the mobile clinic. We see patients from the community who often lack resources to receive proper preventive care so having the dental hygiene facility and students is a huge benefit to our families. We are very grateful for Utah Tech Dental Hygiene Program’s continued support.

A successful 7th Annual Radiothon

The holiday spirit continues to be in full bloom here at Root for Kids! Canyon Media Broadcasting sponsored this year’s annual holiday fundraiser and diaper drive. We couldn’t be any happier with our awesome turnout. Santa, hot chocolate, games, and holiday cheer were on full display. Financial contributions and diapers were donated, helping countless families in the community.

The Secret Garden Gala returns

This was the first year we held our Secret Garden Gala at the Dixie Convention Center’s Garden Room. The location proved to be a perfect for us, where we were able to accommodate a record number of guests over the unforgettable night of glamour and heart. After our awards ceremony, Fred Walker and Tyler Hunsaker, our returning MC’s, ran our live auction with the enthusiastic crowd. Maddie’s Dance Group brought smiles to all our guests faces with their heartfelt performance that closed the night out. Thank you to our presenting sponsor of the evening, Litehouse, Inc. Their continued support has provided financial support to family services in our community. For those interested in attending this year’s Gala, event info can be found here.

V Lowry Snow accepts Debbie Justice Award.

2nd Annual Glow in the Dark Golf Tournament in full swing

We held our Annual Glow in the Dark Golf Tournament at the Coral Canyon Golf Course for the second year! Raffles, food, drinks, and competition aplenty was on display in full neon glow. Guests started the day off playing 9 holes in the sun, followed by a dinner break. After that, the moon was out, and the game turned into a Glow-in-the-Dark competition. It was a fun and hilarious time had by all, where teams learned the true meaning of “taking a shot in the dark.”

Glow-in-the-Dark Golf Tournament | Root for Kids

Glow-in-the-Dark Golf Tournament | Root for Kids

The first Cornhole Tournament hits the target

Our friends at TDS and Tru by Hilton approached us about a new fundraiser and event, which became our first Cornhole Tournament. The afternoon was filled with friendly competition between local businesses and beanbag tossing enthusiasts. Coupled with a delicious lunch, our first outing with the Cornhole Tournament was a great success. With that success, we are pleased to announce that our 2nd Annual Cornhole Tournament will be on March 24th. Teams are sold out, but you can join us as a spectator! Enjoy lunch with us and cheer on your favorite local business! Register here.

Early Head Start goal achieved

One of the most important parts of our Early Head Start grant is an in-kind donation goal. These donations include items donated and volunteer hours worked. Reaching this goal is a major success for us, proving that our presence in the community as a place to volunteer with is having an impact. If you (or a group) would like to volunteer with us. Contact Elizabeth Santana here.


Stefani Watson, 15 years of service

Stefani Watson, Utah School for the Deaf and Blind Audiologist, visits Root for Kids twice a month to provide comprehensive hearing screenings for enrolled children. 15 years ago, Stephani randomly stopped by our office to see how she could help, asking us for a need to fill. Now, 15 years later, she has provided hearing assessments to hundreds of children in our community. She goes above and beyond to see families. Whether it’s after hours, a last-minute notice or a home visit, she makes sure referrals are done. Stephani also provides yearly training to our staff. We are thankful for her 15 years of service with us.

Stefani provides yearly training for all staff on pediatric audiology

Kallie Stewart receives 30 in Their Thirties award

Every year, St George Area Chamber of Commerce honors dynamic young professionals who are taking their business or organization in Southern Utah to a new level with the 30 in Their Thirties Award. Last year, our very own Monica Jones received the prestigious award, and this year was a Root for Kids streak with Kallie Stewart being honored. Kallie works tirelessly as our Early Head Start Director, overseeing hundreds of families, pregnant young mothers, and a team of support specialists. We couldn’t be happier with the Chamber’s choice, as Kallie truly is an exceptional individual in our community.

5 Activities for You and Your 1-2 Year Old

Activities and experiences are major building blocks in a child’s social, emotional and cognitive well-being. Simple things, like taking a walk, pointing, and asking, “what’s that?” are immensely important to your child. Here is a list of 5 simple things you can do with your 1-2 year old to guide their developmental building blocks.

Sponges and water

This one is great for outside, or around the kitchen sink. Take a squishy sponge and show them how it sops up water and squeezes out. Then let them try. Your little one will learn “cause and effect” and develop their muscles in hands, legs and back. Take it a step further and have them wash their waterproof toys. But be careful, it can get wet and slippery, so adult supervision is required.

Collect at the park

Take your toddler to the park or grassy school grounds and look for items to collect. Ask to find the “perfect” leaf. This could be done with rocks and pebbles, finding smooth or rough textures. This teaches your child to search and observe, sensory skills as well as a great physical activity and bending and walking.

Toy and cups

Play the classic “find the toy” game with your child (or whatever object you have on hand). This one can be a little hard for your baby to follow, so be patient with them and help them along if they struggle. The resulting thinking skills are invaluable for your littles. Problem solving, hand eye coordination and focus are all part of this fun and easy activity that they will surely love. Watch the video below for examples of the cup game (1 minute 22 second mark).

Make some noise

Find some objects and toys that rattle, shake and make different noise. Show and play alongside with your child as you explore and make a song. The tone and texture differences help thinking skills, and the movement and talking help physical and communication. If you want to take it a step further from here, sign up for a Kindermusik class here at Root for Kids.

Hi, hello, bye, goodbye

Play a game with your child where you poke your head through a doorframe and wave while saying “hello” and then poke your head away, so not to be seen, and say “bye-bye.” This can be done with and empty cardboard box or a makeshift fort. Your child will try to copy you or come towards you. The communication, physical and cognitive skills learned here are important in their early social skills. 

This list was adapted from ZERO TO THREE’s “Play-activities for 12 to 24 Months” For more information and extra activity ideas, see

Root for Kids 2nd Annual Glow-in-the-Dark Golf Tournament

Root for Kids 2nd Annual Glow-in-the-Dark Golf Tournament was a Hole- in- One! With over 140 players and 120 volunteers, this was our biggest Tournament yet.

Read below how it all came together.

The gorgeous Coral Canyon Golf Course hosted us for the second year in a row. Players began showing up at 1:00 PM for check in and the games began with a shotgun start at 2:30 PM. The golfers played 9 holes of regular daytime golf, before returning for a 5:00 dinner. Coral Canyon provided our players with an amazing barbequed pulled pork dinner. Nothing Bundt Cake for dessert (one of our generous sponsors) treated our players to one of their scrumptious Bundtinis.

Golfing with Glow

After dinner, the golfers lined up and were off to a second shotgun start for their final 9 holes at 6:30 PM. The carts were decorated, players were dressed head-to-toe in glow merch, and the luminosity from the glow course was sublime.  Golf is a difficult sport in the daytime, let alone in the dark. Shenanigans were had, hilarity and humility ensued, as golfers tried their best to hit glowing golf balls at the nighttime targets. Some golfers were witnessed reverting to poolhall rules getting the balls in the hole.

The Winners

The ACE of Kings were our Men’s division winners, with players Ryan Baeza, Mike Vesagas, Marcas Sanders, and Tyson Mendez. Jeff Smith Construction won our Co-ed division, with players Jeff Smith, Cyla McBride, Nihoa Kanohi and Sydnee Sabaitis. Congratulations to our winners!

The Raffle

Raffle winners were announced right after the team winners. Our raffle and prize items this year were simply awesome. A two-night stay at Cliffrose Lodge in Zion Park went to the lucky winner of the “Hit the Glow Target.” Gift baskets, gift certificates, Hybrid Light packages and Zion Wildflower Resort stays were only a few of the gracious raffle items that went home with lucky Tournament participants.

The Sponsors

We can’t finish this recap without thanking our generous sponsors for this year’s Tournament. Zach and Whit Photography were our Gold Sponsor, whom players saw all around the course capturing the excitement throughout the day. We thank all our amazing sponsors who made the 2nd Annual Root for Kids Glow-in-the-Dark Tournament possible.

The Volunteers

We would like to thank our Volunteers for their hard work setting up and taking down the golf course, and everything in-between. We had over 120 volunteers ranging from Utah Tech’s Women’s Basketball, DSU Nursing students to former employees of Root for Kids and friends from the community. Thank you volunteers, you made the day run smoothly!