Oh Christmas Tree

The Aquarius Casino Resort and Edgewater Casino Resort are hosting the 10th annual Feed a Family fundraiser this year to donate Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners to local families in need. Since the program began in 2012, Aquarius and Edgewater have fed 13,746 families.

Aquarius and Edgewater General Manager Sean Hammond said the program started after someone requested help buying a few turkeys for local families in need and he wanted to do more.

“We began the Feed a Family program based on a donation request I had received,” Hammond said. “Somebody needed 10 turkeys for Christmas. I signed off on the donation for 10 turkeys, but then I got to thinking, if they need the turkey because they don’t have any food, what about all the other food for the complete holiday meal? So I went shopping one day and just did the basics — stuffing, gravy, potatoes, vegetables, rolls, pie and whipped cream — and I was able to get everything for about $20 at the time. That’s enough food to feed a family of four, a complete holiday meal.”

There is no shortage of Christmas spirit at the Aquarius, so to raise additional funds for the Feed a Family program, they started an annual Christmas Tree Auction.

“The Christmas Tree Auction was an add-on,” Hammond said. ” We do a lot for Christmas around here, we’ve got the best decorations in the Laughlin area and of course the property is lit up. We wanted to do an event for our hosted players so we went with the individually-themed Christmas tree silent auction and the players donate the ornaments to enter a slot tournament.”

The Aquarius invites Epic, Legit and Solid reward members to a slot tournament this Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 27-28, with the entry fee being an ornament to place on the trees. Hammond said each year players are eager to donate ornaments, even guests who could not make the tournament have graciously mailed in ornaments as a donation to the cause.

“Nobody brings just one ornament,” he said. “That’s why some of the trees have literally 500-600 ornaments. We can’t even put all the ornaments on sometimes, we just have them in boxes under the tree and give the whole thing to the winner of the tree.”

The casino hosts will decorate the trees right on the casino floor on Friday after Thanksgiving. There will be 10 trees to bid on in the Aquarius Lobby and five trees at the Edgewater.

“All 15 are 7.5-foot, pre-lit Christmas trees, individually themed,” Hammond said. “So you definitely need to get to both properties to check them all out before you decide on which one to bid on.”

Some of the themes this year include Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, Magical Christmas, Holiday Happy Hour, Jack Frost, Star Wars, The Nutcracker and Cowboy Christmas.

Bidding is from Nov. 27-Dec. 25. The bid starts at $300 per tree, and must continue in $25 increments

“We do all the work. If you leave your name and email, we will contact you if you get outbid and ask if you want to increase your bid,” Hammond said. “Or someone can buy a tree outright by donating $1,750 or more and we’ll pull the tree right off the auction block.

“Every year we have secret Santas that will buy a couple of trees and tell us to find a local family in need and we will shrink wrap the tree, drive it over there, and set it up for them.”

Last year the trees brought in $9,150, which fed 366 families.

In total donations, Hammond said they met their goal last year by feeding 2,500 families and they will keep that same goal for this year.

“Last year we fed 2,500 families and that equals 10,000 people between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said. “The goal for this year is 2,500 as well, so we want to minimally be able to match last year’s numbers. For Thanksgiving, so far we have enough donations on hand to feed about 400 families.”

The fundraiser began Nov.1 and runs through Dec. 25. Guests can contribute by donating their True Rewards points, or by cash or credit card at the True Rewards Center within the casinos. Players also can donate points on the Aquarius and Edgewater websites. On the home page of each website there is a Feed a Family section — click more info and the donation form pops up.

Guests can give as many or as few points as they’d like. It takes 25,000 points to buy one food box, but it is not necessary for one person to donate the full 25,000 points. Guests may donate however many points they would like and they will be pooled together to make the full 25,000, which equates to $25 for a meal to feed a family of four.

Each food box contains a 7-pound ham or a 12-pound turkey, along with potatoes, gravy, vegetables, rolls, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie and whipped cream.

The food boxes are distributed amongst the Bullhead City Homeless Youth Program, Food For Families, Mohave Valley Food Pantry, ACS Food Bank, Kingman Food Bank, Nana’s Pantry, Havasu Community Health Foundation Food Bank, Isabel’s Pantry, Needles Community Partners, Set Free Church, Cornerstone Mission and Colorado River Food Bank.