With temperatures hovering near 25 degrees Sunday, three Manitou Springs High School students huddled closely for warmth, surrounded by a pile of discarded Christmas trees. As a pickup approached, the young men jumped over the tree fort, eager to accept another used tree and any donation that might come with it.
"It's been a little slow today, but we've still got three more days of fundraising to go so we're optimistic that we'll be able to raise a good amount," said senior Jon Harmor, 18.
Turnout was slow but steady on the second day of the TreeCycle Fundraiser, which benefits the school's band program. Director Tom Bruszewski said it has been an important part of the band members' activities for more than 10 years.
"The kids that volunteer to work shifts in the fundraiser each get their own band funds account and earn money they can use toward band trips, new instruments or anything that's music-related," Bruszewski said.
This year's funds will help pay for a spring trip to Ca?n City, where the band will play with other bands, receive feedback from directors and attend clinics.
"Last year, we went to St. Louis in Missouri and even went to the Gateway Arch," said Austin Sustarsic, 15. "It was fun to travel and play with a college band."
The experience gained from traveling with the band, Bruszewski said, goes far beyond anything they could learn in a classroom.
"They get to perform for audiences who don't get to hear them, they get feedback from directors and other musicians to improve and grow," the band director said. "A lot of those kids would never get those opportunities if it wasn't for the band. It's all about nurturing the human behind the music."
But financial strains threw the band program fundraiser a curve ball when the city of Manitou Springs said it wouldn't be picking up the tab to transport the trees from the high school and chip them into mulch.
"We got the message from the city that they can't spare the cost to bring in the crew to load the trees and chip them," Bruszewski said. "It's my guess that with this year's floods and everything they need to spend money on for repairs, they had to cut costs somewhere."
In addition to monetary donations, the high school band is looking for anyone willing to volunteer time and a vehicle to transport the trees.
"We'll take as much help as anyone's willing to give, hopefully the sooner the better," said Max Jonas Knaver, 16. "We'll have lots of trees to move and chip by the time we're done with the fundraiser next weekend."
The fundraiser continues from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. For details, email the band directors at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.