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!

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

Bloom and Grow Support Group for Teen and Young Parents

We are very excited to announce that we have started Bloom and Grow support group for teen and young parents, here at our Root for Kids St. George location.  

What is Bloom and Grow? 

Bloom and Grow will provide young expecting parents and new parents a place to come and learn about the road ahead in a safe and empathetic environment. The sessions will be led by onsite Registered Nurses who specialize in early childhood development. Presenters from the community will also be invited to share their knowledge and expertise on specific topics. The classes are free and open to residents of Washington County. 

Why Bloom and Grow? 

“For every one thousand girls age 15-19 in Washington County, about 13 of them will become a parent. Research has shown that having a child in adolescence is associated with long-term difficulties for the mother and her child. Teen parents can feel very isolated, and it may be difficult for them to find resources that are helpful to them. Our main goal is to offer parents a safe place to ask questions, and to give them tools that will empower them to be the very best parents they can be,” said Megan Eads, Root for Kids Pediatric Registered Nurse. “We have seen the success of similar programs in other areas of Utah and want to give the same opportunity to the teen parents in our community. Everything we do at Root for Kids is aimed at helping children and families reach their greatest potential, and we know this program will do just that for these young parents and their children.” 

What specifically do you learn? 

Topics that may be discussed at the Bloom and Grow meetings include exercise and nutrition, what to expect during and after pregnancy, women’s health, baby care, infant massage, CPR, attachment, bonding, family planning, and more. This group is a great place for young parents to connect with other parents. It will be a safe place for parents to ask questions and learn about the many resources available to them and their children in our community. Healthy food will be served at every class. Participants will receive free gifts for themselves and their child. 

Who is this open to? 

The classes are open to all teens and early twenties parents.  

When are Bloom and Grow classes available? 

The classes are available starting now. Classes are held on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month at Root for Kids 2044 S Mesa Drive. from 4:30-6:00 PM.  

If you know someone who may benefit from the Bloom and Grow Teen Parenting Class, fill out our referral form here or give us a call at (435) 673-5353, ext.107.

Thank you.

Bloom and Grow would not be possible if not for Three Corners Women’s Giving Circle for giving us our foundational funding. We thank them for their generous support.

Who are we? 

Root for Kids (previously known as The Learning Center for Families) is a non-profit organization located in Southern Utah that provides services for children and families in need of extra support. We help families create a nurturing environment for optimal growth and development for each child. Since 1993, Root for Kids has served over 16,000 families through Early Head Start, Early Intervention and Parents as Teachers home visiting programs, and Kindermusik classes, in Washington County, Utah and the Arizona Strip. Root for Kids also provides Early Intervention services in San Juan County, Utah. All services are based on eligibility and are provided at no cost* to the families. 

*Income eligibility for some programs is waived for families under 180% of Federal Poverty Guidelines or who have other extreme special circumstances. Applications for services are taken at any time as our programs are offered year-round. **Data from 2016-2017 Annual Report. See full report. Root for Kids does not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, color, race, ethnicity, creed, national origin, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, political belief or disability. Transportation reimbursement is provided to assist families with program participation.



Returning to an in-person event after our 2020 virtual edition was a big task to ensure the safety of ourselves and our guests. Couple that with record breaking attendance, and the task became monumental. However, with the help of many volunteers and our staff, we managed to make a safe and unforgettable evening at the Dixie Convention Center where good times were had by all.

The Secret Garden Gala 2022 took place on Saturday, June 25, 2022, at the Dixie Convention Center with the support of 21 sponsors and 275 guests. This was our first year at the new venue, as we had outgrown our previous spaces. The new accommodations proved to be essential for the spirited silent and live auctions, raffle, catered dinner and main program- with some very special guests. See how The Secret Garden Gala 2022 came to life.

The Main Program

At 5 PM we began our social hour and started the silent auction. Dinner was served soon after, and Tyler Hunsaker and Fred Walker, our returning Emcees, welcomed the crowd. We were then offered an insightful message from our past Board President, Dr. Ellen Arch. Our annual awards followed afterward and led right into a very special video about our work here at Root for Kids, which you can watch here. As if emotions weren’t running high enough after that, we then had a special performance by Madi’s All Star Dance Group that brought absolute joy to the audience. Closing the night, an absolutely raucous live auction that raised money for our enrolled families at Root for Kids.


 The Awards

We couldn’t be more honored to recognize our award winners for The Secret Garden Gala 2022:

  • Outstanding Community Partner: Associated General Contractors
  • Outstanding Business: InfoWest
  • Outstanding Health Partner: Jeremy & Laurie Scholzen
  • Outstanding Volunteer: Dixie State University Nursing Program
  • Outstanding Donor: Larry R Hansen
  • Debbie Justice Legacy Award: US Representative, V. Lowry Snow

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for the continued and enduring support you give to support our mission at Root for Kids. 



Our Generous Sponsors

A special thank you to our platinum and presenting sponsor, Litehouse. The generosity of their donation provided us with an incredible foundation to build on for the funds we raised the evening of the gala. We enjoyed having representatives from Litehouse join us on-stage in recognizing our annual community award winners. It means so much to have Litehouse as a donor, a friend and proponent of our mission since 2018. 

We had 21 amazing sponsors supporting The Secret Garden Gala 2022, and the event wouldn’t have been the success that it was without their contribution. Stephen Wade Auto Center, John A Gullo and Family and the Hurst Wood Education Foundation were our gold sponsors. Snow Jensen & Reece Attorneys at Law and Watts Construction were our silver sponsors.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank these generous businesses in our community:

Litehouse representatives present Utah State Representative V Lowry Snow with the Debbie Justice Legacy Award.


A Huge Thanks

We had some massive help making the event such a successful night. Our friends Fred Walker and Tyler Hunsaker served as the emcees for the night, providing lively commentary and some big laughs. Leslie and Ralph from the Dixie Convention Center coordinated and decorated our event flawlessly. Kris Archer from Bougie Balloons added some serious flair by bringing in ornate balloons and décor for display. And finally, our staff who worked tirelessly up to the last minute. Everyone who worked behind the scenes made the Garden Room picturesque from floor to ceiling and deserves a huge thanks!

What’s Next?

Our 2nd annual Glow-in-the-Dark Golf Tournament is right around the corner, happening on Friday, October 21, 2022. Golfers will enjoy 18 holes of golf, 9 holes during the day and 9 holes after sunset. Golfer can purchase mulligans and raffle tickets, and will enjoy a delicious BBQ dinner and a bag of glow in the dark swag.

If you are interested in taking part, we will be putting tickets on-sale soon. If you are interested in sponsoring our event, please contact Monica Jones at or at (435) 673-5353.

Things to Do in the Summer with Kids in St. George

Summer is upon us and with it endless opportunities to have fun with the kids! It’s the season for swimming, traveling, camping, watching fireworks, going to the county fair, and so much more. Whether you are a local or planning to visit the red rock country, check out the best things to do with the kids this summer in St. George!

Cool Off on the Splash Pads

It can get pretty hot around here so splash pads are quite popular in the summertime. The kids will love playing in the water and you will love the fact that it is free. Try the splash pads at the St. George Town Square, Hidden Valley Park, Thunder Junction All Abilities Park, Sullivan Virgin River Soccer Park, Pine View Park and Archie H. Gubler Park. 

Things to Do in the Summer with Kids in St. George | Root for Kids
Thunder Junction All Abilities Park Facebook Page

Take a Music Class

Kids can learn so many skills through music and summer can be the perfect time to hone those skills. For children 0-3 years old and their parent or caregiver, Root for Kids is offering week-long Kindermusik® summer camps throughout the summer! The camps include 2 in-studio classes and one field trip related to that week’s theme. 

Kindermusik | Root for Kids

Go on a Hike

St. George is the perfect place to enjoy the outdoors. There are lots of hiking options close to the city and most of them are free and open to all! A few short and easy hikes to do with the kids include Temple Quarry Trail, Chuckwalla Trail, Sandstone Quarry Trail, Jenny’s Canyon Trail and Children’s Forest at the Kiln. Make sure you bring plenty of water and plan your hiking adventure either early morning or after dinner to escape the heat!

Things to Do in the Summer with Kids in St. George | Root for Kids
Children’s Forest at the Klin | Hike St. George

Watch a Movie in the Park

It doesn’t get much better than lying in a blanket in the middle of the park to watch a fun movie under the stars. To make your summer dreams a reality, St. George’s Sunset on the Square hosts bi-monthly free movie nights at the Town Square in June, July and August. Games, food and dancing start at 6:00 p.m. and the movie starts at dusk.

Things to Do in the Summer with Kids in St. George | Root for Kids
Sunset on the Square/Write It Up St. George Facebook Page

Explore Historic St. George

St. George has a rich history and many places in the downtown area that you can explore on your own. But if you want to make it more interesting for the kids and bring history to life, check out the Historic St. George Live tour! From June 1 to August 31, you can meet historic figures such as Brigham Young, Erastus Snow, Jacob Hamblin and Judge John Menzies as well as pioneer settlers at different historic locations. Tours start at the St. George Art Museum and are only $3 for ages 12 and up (children are free with an adult). After the tour, you can use the same ticket to explore the St. George Art Museum as well. 

Things to Do in the Summer with Kids in St. George | Root for Kids
St. George Art Museum Facebook Page

Attend Local Events

St. George hosts a variety of family-friendly events throughout the year, especially during the summer. From March through October, you can enjoy the St. George Streetfest every first Friday of the month. In the beginning of August, the traditional Washington County Fair takes place and this year Root for Kids is excited to sponsor the Baby Contest! And of course you can’t miss the 4th of July Celebration at Town Square.

Things to Do in the Summer with Kids in St. George | Root for Kids
City of St. George Facebook Page

Make it Cultural

Just because the kids are out of school, doesn’t mean that the learning stops! Between library events and interactive museums, you will surely find an activity your kids will love. Most of them are free or under $5! Take your future pilot to the Western Sky Aviation Warbird Museum, explore the St. George Dinosaur Discovery Site and the St. George Children’s Museum, and check out Story Time at the St. George Library. Also, make sure to check the event page of the museum websites to find other unique things to do. 

Things to Do in the Summer with Kids in St. George | Root for Kids
St. George Children’s Museum Facebook Page

It doesn’t matter what activities you do this summer with the kids, the most important thing is to spend quality family time together!

Root for Kids serves 600 children every week in their homes to help them and their families. You can help us promote the success of children one family at a time by joining us on September 7, 2019 for The Secret Garden Gala.