At least 30 folks from around Albany County — and even some from other counties — who have a disability or special needs will receive Christmas gifts this week as part of Premier Advocacy Services’ Give the Gift of Christmas campaign.
PAS announced Dec. 16 the Laramie nonprofit was able to raise $2,468 from community fundraising to buy 95 gifts for each of the folks with disabilities on their list. Each person was able to receive about three gifts.
“This is our way to give back to the Laramie community and make Laramie a place where people with disabilities are taken care of; it’s a big thing for us,” said Mark Sparks, director of Premier Advocacy Services.
Those receiving gifts include folks from Laramie, of course, but Sparks said they wanted to take the program a little farther this year, including a person from Cheyenne, Rawlins and even Douglas.
“It’s adults, it’s children, it’s quite a wide range,” he said. “We’re also sending a book, just kind of words of wisdom, to a mom in Casper who is going to be having a kiddo with down syndrome— just giving her a little bit more support as she embarks on that adventure.”
Sparks said the fundraising efforts took about a month and a half and even featured an online version of a giving tree, where residents could buy specific gifts for children based on their wish lists.
Once the funds had been raised, the PAS team started shopping for gifts.
“We go out and try to purchase as many gifts locally as possible, try to avoid big stores and online shopping as much as possible,” Sparks said. “We spent all of (Dec. 16) — probably about five hours —out and about running around Laramie trying to purchase gifts here in town.”
Very specific brands or items that couldn’t be found in Laramie or switched with a gift found in Laramie were bought online, he added.
The program has grown since it’s first fundraising efforts last Christmas, and Sparks said he expects to see it grow even more.
“We got a lot of good reception; a lot of people were willing to volunteer time and efforts and really just share and spread the campaign this year,” Sparks said. “I feel really happy about this year compared to last year.”
While this year didn’t have the big donor that Christmas 2018 had, Sparks said the community donations were still able to surpass last year’s total by about $300.
Sparks said the PAS team plans to give out the presents this week, hoping to have the majority given out before Christmas Day. He added the campaign will be a tradition for years to come.
The nonprofit itself started in June 2018, and since then has hosted a variety of events for people with disabilities, including sensory-friendly movie screenings and inclusive bowling nights.
Premier Advocacy Services works to provide inclusive services and support for people in the community with disabilities and their families.