Ace Geovanny Garate

Community members will have the chance to brighten the holiday season for area foster children at the AceItUp Christmas Tree Lighting and Toy Drive.

Beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at White Memorial Park, the event seeks to honor the memory of the late Ace Garate and his giving spirit. Attendees are encouraged to bring donations of either money or toys, which will be given to St. Francis Ministries, a faith-based child and family services organization. The lighting ceremony and accompanying carols will begin at 6:15 p.m. sharp, so early arrival is appreciated.

“Ace was a big Christmas guy,” said his mother, Amy Garate. “He always wanted to do things for other people. We just thought that having a tree lighting and a toy drive would be something that would help put a smile on some faces. When the magic is taken out of Christmas, it’s not as fun anymore. Those foster kids may have had a hard time during the year or are having a hard time currently with where they are in their lives. This is a way to help bring that fun back.”

In addition to festive photos from local Photographer Michelle Huber, cookies and cocoa will be made available for free-will donation — visitors just need to bring their own mugs. Commemorative AceItUp T-shirts will also be available for sale inside the nearby Gazette offices at 517 Merchant St.

“T-shirts are going to be $10 each,” Garate said. “If people buy them early, we’d love to have them wear the shirt the night of the lighting.”

The Garates hope guests will not only be able to use the night to remember Ace, but also their own friends and family members that “were lost too soon” by placing red ribbons on the tree. Over the past few months, the ribbons have become a de facto symbol of the AceItUp mission.

“We want the night to be something where people can just come out, sing carols and really just be there together for each other during this time of year.” Garate said. “We hope the red ribbons make everything a bit more special … it makes it feel like those loved ones are joining in with us.”

Those looking to make donations or find out additional information on AceItUp can find the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AceItUp.

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