Islanders lend support to Treehouse’s Holiday Magic gift program

Nonprofit organization sends out thousands of gifts to foster kids.

Seattle’s Treehouse has received an immense amount of support from Mercer Islanders over the years.

Residents like Jill Ashton and Carla Richards and members of the Rotary Club of Mercer Island have climbed into its realm and are currently lending a hand with its Holiday Magic gift program. Ashton is a board member, Richards volunteers and Rotary has sponsored the holiday drive at the $1,000 level.

Ashton said the effective nonprofit organization has touched her heart. Treehouse was founded in 1988 and addresses the academic and other essential support needs of more than 8,000 youth in foster care, according to its website.

“I know that every minute I spend there is doing something to help the situation for foster kids, and so that’s been such a meaningful use of time for me,” said Ashton, mother of a current Mercer Island middle-schooler and two Mercer Island High School (MIHS) graduates. Her husband, Warren, grew up on the Island and also graduated from MIHS.

At press time, Treehouse had mailed out nearly 4,000 gifts to kids and they usually reach the 5,000 mark each year. For the last 30 years, Treehouse has partnered with the Department of Children Youth and Families to bring the statewide Holiday Magic program to life. For information, visit

“This year has been challenging in so many ways, and youth in foster care have shouldered some of the heaviest burden,” said Spencer Sheridan, Treehouse’s senior event coordinator, in a press release. “A meaningful holiday gift or warm clothes can make all the difference in a child’s confidence and determination to persevere.”

Richards became apprised of Treehouse through the Mercer Island Preschool Association when her son was a toddler. She helped with Treehouse’s back to school drive then and has continued to do so with her husband and son for the last 20 years.

For the last eight years, Richards has volunteered at Treehouse’s Seattle facility for three days a week. Usually at this time of the year, the place would be packed with volunteers sorting donations in the warehouse and moving them into the store for pick-up. Due to COVID, the majority of the gifts are mailed out this year, but some foster families have come to the store at a set appointment time to pick up their bag or box of items.

Richards said they miss the close interaction with the families like before.

“We can hopefully serve as many families as we can, especially through the holidays,” she said.

Ashton got involved with the Holiday Magic drive about 20 years ago by buying presents and donating money. For the last 15 or 16 years, it’s become a family tradition with her kids purchasing presents for children their age.

A board member for the last eight years, Ashton feels it’s vital for her children to be sensitive and attentive to the situation of others and participate in Treehouse activities

When discussing the importance of Treehouse, Ashton said, “There’s layers of focus on foster kids, and they’re respective in their approach and they make a significant difference to improving foster kids’ lives.”