KIRO NEWSRADIO

How your donations support Treehouse’s Holiday Magic program

Nov 29, 2022, 10:37 AM

It’s Giving Tuesday and in that spirit, KIRO Newsradio’s 34th Annual Holiday Magic campaign to support foster kids has arrived.

Colleen O’Brien got an inside look at the Treehouse Store recently.

Treehouse is a non-profit that works to give opportunities and support to children in the foster care system. The Treehouse Holiday Magic program helps make the holidays brighter for children and youth in foster care and provides support for additional Treehouse programs and services throughout the year.

Treehouse headquarters is located just south of Interstate 90 off Rainier Avenue, and it’s where foster youth can come up to three times a year and get up to 20 items every visit. This program is especially important when a child gets moved to a new foster home and can’t bring their items with them.

Victoria Kutasz is the Program Director for Resources and Operations at Treehouse and spoke to Colleen about how rewarding the experience of supporting youth in foster care is.

“It’s amazing, it’s my favorite part of my job is coming down and seeing families come in and youth getting to pick things out. Do a little fashion show in the dressing rooms, and find things that really make them happy and let them express themselves and it’s just a really magical space,” Kutasz said.

Made even more magical by the fact that in 2016, Nordstrom’s design team came in and revamped the space. You may have heard it called the “warehouse,” but this is just like any other boutique shopping experience and then some – with mountains of toys, books, decor, and more.

The space serves approximately 8,000 youth in foster care in our state at any given time.

“Every year we have tons of folks who are new to our program. This is the first time they are getting a gift or a warm coat from us. And we have families who have been using these services for 20-30 years as they have new kids come into their home,” Kutasz said.

And it’s about more than just getting stuff, Victoria says this is about giving foster kids an experience they might not otherwise get.

“It’s really important to us to be a confidence-building program. To be giving kids things that will be meaningful to them, that is going to make them feel like they fit in with their peers, [so] they’re excited to go back to school in January and talk about the amazing gifts they got for the holidays. We want to make sure this is a program that feels, like I said, like any other shopping experience for our kids. It’s all the things you’d see if you go shopping anywhere else,” Kutasz explained.

It’s in this space – the Treehouse Store – that dreams for these kids come true, and Victoria recalls one of her favorite recent visits, from a 5-year-old foster youth.

“I was here in the store just a couple of weeks ago and I checked in a caregiver and the youth who was in her care. Her fifth birthday was coming up, it was on a Friday, and her birthday was Monday. She picked out her helmet, and she picked out her bike – she got to choose between the pink bike and the purple bike – and was riding it in circles through the front of the store and her face just lit up. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I do this work,” Kutasz said.

Colleen took a thorough walk throughout the store and they might do a better job at carrying items youth love than some of the big box stores today. They have Star Wars lego sets, name-brand clothing, book sets from popular series, bikes, art, crafts, and clothing galore for infants to older teens, and it’s your donations and support that keep the Treehouse Store going.

“We have continued to see our demand for our services across our state go up as we come out of the pandemic, and people are coming out of their shells – coming back into the community,” Kutasz said. “We continue to see requests for items from the store increase every month. So, we’re expecting really high demand and we appreciate all of the support we can get from the community to make sure our families can get what they need.”

You can also donate to Treehouse ahead of our Holiday Magic event, the week of December 5.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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How your donations support Treehouse’s Holiday Magic program