Trees of Hope has officially returned to Penrith Panthers for the festive season, with eight local charities putting their decorating skills to the test in hopes of winning a share of $10,000.
This year, the team from Our Community Cares is aiming to bring the same sweetness to their tree as they do to the Penrith community.
“It’s a gingerbread theme – we’re just trying to bring a bit of sweetness to Penrith!” Kris Gauci said.
“There’s lots of edibles on the tree, so maybe when we get back, there’ll be nothing left of it!”
Gauci commended the work of her team to make this year’s tree so spectacular.
“I think it’s going to look fantastic. Kim and the girls and all the people in our committee have done a fantastic job cooking, and baking gingerbread, and packing them, and getting all the decorations,” she said.
“They’ve really been putting a lot of effort in, which is really good, but it’s just a bit of fun anyway.”
Recently, Our Community Cares has been working closely with Nepean Hospital, with Gauci hoping that a win could help them continue to do so.
“We’ll do whatever we can that’s worthwhile – they’re still giving us their wish list!” she said.
Kevin Canning from Penrith Men’s Walk and Talk said that their tree is aiming to kickstart important conversations around men’s mental health.
“Our inspiration this year is a blue tree, based on the Blue Tree Project, which is a national organisation which is a conversation starter around mental health,” he said.
“There’s 1060 blue trees around the country, we have one here on the Penrith river walk which we’ve painted blue ourselves, so here in the foyer we’ve got a blue tree, and we’ve got some information on the Blue Tree Project.”
Being their fourth year taking part in Trees of Hope, Canning is hoping 2023 could be the year they finally take home the win.
“We’ve been runner-up a couple of times, so we’re aiming to go one better, but there’s a lot of good organisations here, so I think everyone’s worthy of a position,” he said.
“If we can bring a smile to someone’s face, or even if our tree starts that conversation, that’s what we think is important.”
Other charities taking part in Trees of Hope this year include Penrith Community Kitchen, Regentville Rural Fire Brigade, Panthers on The Prowl, The Haven Women’s Shelter, Nepean Therapy Dogs Incorporated and NORO.
Voting is open from now until Tuesday, December 19.
The winners will be announced at 3pm on Wednesday, December 20.
Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.