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  • One of the crafting tables sits ready for families to create holiday projects.
  • A festive hot chocolate made at the hot cocoa bar is ready to be enjoyed.

What started as a desire to help turned into a community-wide event when local foothills residents decided they wanted to help families affected by the Marshall Fire.

After collecting donations and wrapping gifts just a short few weeks ago, the communities of Evergreen, Conifer and Walnut Creek put on “January Holly Days” on Jan. 22 for families affected by the Marshall Fire.

When the fire hit Boulder County area weeks ago, Whitney Knause knew she wanted to help. She started by asking for donations, then got the community to come together and wrap presents for kids who had lost their homes. She wanted to bring back the magic of the holidays that many families lost so quickly. 

Between the wrapping event and Saturday’s family event in Westminster, Knause received even more donations.

“The last push was insane,” she said.

Members of the community bought gift cards for parents and continued to donate toys, time and items for the event.

The “January Holly Days” event was hosted at the Walnut Creek Golf Preserve in Westminster and featured gifts, a hot cocoa bar, crafts, caricature drawings, a gift card tree and more.

Many volunteers came all the way from Evergreen to start setting up at 8 a.m.

Specifically, Knause wanted to thank Rob Jugenheimer from Sunset Hill Gardens and Windows, who volunteered to haul gifts around in his trailer all the way from Knause’s (very full) garage in Evergreen.

Seeing her idea come to life and seeing kids opening presents was all the recognition that Knause needed. 

“Seeing them excited, opening gifts and hearing someone with such appreciation…it’s neat,” she said.

Knause had kids take multiple gifts, and sent families home with boxes of presents to give to friends and neighbors who could not make it to the event. Knause hopes to host another event for the leftover gifts. 

Sherry and Gary Antweiler from Evergreen got to spend the day dressed up as Santa and Mrs. Claus to visit with families. Kids ran to them with eyes alight, and Mrs. Claus made sure to let them know that Santa’s beard was real. Sherry was happy to be volunteering at the event.

“It’s exceptionally important. I can’t even fathom what they’re going through,” Sherry said.

She also had good things to say about the event’s organizer, Knause.

“There isn’t a heart bigger than Whitney’s,” she said. 

One family attended the event with their son, Liam. The parents asked to be identified by their initials to respect their privacy at this time. 

Liam’s dad, M., said his family was thankful for the event and had a great time together.

“This is our first event since the fire happened,” he said. “It was so enjoyable. It got us to not think about anything besides fun.”

M.’s family’s home has severe smoke damage from the fire, and they are working through insurance processes now to figure out next steps. M. said an event like this shows the things he loves most about Colorado — the people.

“As an immigrant to the U.S. — I did my master’s and Ph.D. here — all the support is more than just financial … it’s more about the support we feel from others,” he said.