If you happen to visit UTC mall’s Festival of Trees, or Kirkwood Church’s Christmas Bazaar this Nov. 12, you will see a homemade Lady LaRocca Christmas tree. The sight will make you stop, admire, and contemplate.

And that’s exactly what the designers wanted to achieve when they created their seasonal tree collection aimed at raising awareness of women’s ability to be empowered, self-confident and move forward to be a better person regardless of their past.

The idea was spawned by Cheryl and Alexis LaRocca, a mother/daughter team that hopes their trees will inspire women of all ages to tap into the “magic” of their ability to overcome all obstacles and emerge with dignity and grace. Reflecting on the millions of young girls and women who are victims of domestic abuse or sex trafficking, the LaRocca’s hope to bring a new meaning to the Season, lighting women’s spirits as much as their Christmas trees shine.

The one-of-a-kind trees – each painstakingly detailed with select ornamental materials found at craft stores and online, have their own names (and personalities) based on their clothing design. For instance, “Lady LaRocca” is their signature tree, designed in 2020, and includes a woman’s bodice in a dark purple top – the color of domestic violence awareness. On the flip side of this, purple is the color associated with royalty and emits confidence. The designer duo say they made her more mature and elegant. This tree also features an ornament that says “faith” because it represents the designer’s faith in God. All trees are designed with a lady’s bodice on the top and the flowing “skirt” of the bodice is a Christmas tree.

While each tree is unique in theme, color and ornamental design, the one common signature tag used in all their trees is a high heel shoe ornament that is placed on the bottom right of the dress, “like a signature to a painting – but on the bottom of the shoe is the tree’s name and the year it was created,” says Cheryl, who experienced domestic abuse most of her childhood and adult life. Cheryl, a Master Hair Stylist in Sarasota, says she is appreciative of overcoming the trauma of domestic abuse and has a bright future ahead of her, marriage included. Alexis, too, is getting married, and also works as a digital marketing advocate for Selah Freedom, a non-profit anti-sex trafficking organization based in Sarasota. “Selah”(meaning to pause, rest, reflect), bring freedom to the exploited through five strong programs: Awareness, Prevention, Outreach, Residential, and Consulting. To date, they’ve helped 1,500 survivors.

The LaRocca trees are not for sale to the public yet but are offered for rent to businesses who are women-owned, or businesses and stores that want to support their self-empowerment theme of motivating women to be strong and confident despite their dark experiences.

My daughter and I decided to design our own trees and we wanted to have a purpose associated with our business.” Says Cheryl. “And coming from an abusive environment, we want to give back and bring awareness to domestic violence and sex trafficking. We hope to help girls and women feel whole and beautiful the way God made them to be. Alexis adds, “It doesn’t matter what dark place you came from, what matters is healing and empowering yourself to be a better person.”

One of their signature trees will also be on display on Saturday, November 12 at the Annual Christmas Market at Kirkwood Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., in Bradenton. will be auctioned off at the Christmas Market and the proceeds will be donated to Selah Freedom to support their TYLA Court Program (Turn Your Life Around). As noted above, the tree will also be displayed at UTC Festival of Trees.

Some people build bridges to freedom, and others build Christmas trees to achieve the same goal. For more information about renting one of the La Rocca Christmas masterpieces, email them at: ladylarocca@gmail.com. In addition to seeing one of the trees at Kirkwood Church Christmas Market in Bradenton, you can see the trees at one of the local Sarasota businesses: Luxe, Rita Media Elite, Sue Ellen’s Floral Boutique, Eco Salon Solutions.

If you go:

Kirkwood Church 27th Annual Christmas Market

Saturday, November 12, 9am – 1pm

6101 Cortez Rd. W., Bradenton