Trees donated to benefit children

In preparing for this year's Festival of Trees, the thoughts of many who donated trees seemed to turn to children.

That's only natural, though, as the Festival of Trees is a fund-raiser to help provide medical care for needy children at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City. But this year a lot of thoughts were on the memories of children who have died from illness or accident. Many of the 400 trees at the festival, held Dec. 1-4, reflected these thoughts, including some of the 51 trees donated by wards, Relief Societies and other LDS auxiliary organizations.The donated trees were auctioned to the highest bidders.

Relief Society sisters of the Bountiful (Utah) 53rd Ward titled their donation "Angels We Have Known." Their seven-foot Christmas tree was dedicated to several families in the ward that have lost babies or children.

"The ornaments were simple," said Nolene Reynolds, Relief Society homemaking counselor. "They were little wooden angels about four to five inches tall. The boy angels had little presents in their arms, and the girl angels held bouquets of flowers."

About 40 such angels decorated the tree, said Sister Reynolds. The ward Young Women helped, she added, by making little wooden hearts with little bells attached. The red hearts hung from the tree with green ribbon. Also decorating the tree was baby's breath.

Standing to the side of the tree were three handmade doll angels, each about 36 inches tall and each dressed in plaid dresses with big lace bows. One of the dolls held a scroll on which were the names of children who have died. Sister Reynolds emphasized that the names were not only of children who died while in the ward, but also of children who died before their families moved into the ward.

In speaking of the positive response to the festival, held in the Salt Palace Exhibition Hall, Kathy Roos, publicity chairwoman for the festival, said that 100 more trees were donated this year than last year.

"For some people, the Festival of Trees is the beginning of their Christmas season," Sister Roos said. "I couldn't guess how many people donated not only trees, but also items for the gift shop. There were hostesses who came every day and volunteered. We had wreaths that were donated. We had six play houses donated by builders in the valley.

"The support from the community in attendance and in what the community was willing to donate was overwhelming. You felt so wonderful because you knew how involved the area was. It showed a real love for the hospital and for children. Obviously, it's important to the valley that children's medical needs are taken care of and that families can survive the cost of medical care."

About $700,000 was raised in this, the 23rd year of the festival. More than $6 million has been raised in past years during the festival. This figure makes even more significant the festival's annual theme, "A Gift of Love." Also going to charity care were the proceeds from sales of candy, gingerbread houses, outdoor displays and other holiday items.

Those attending the festival enjoyed entertainment as local singers, dancers and bands performed on two different stages.

As in the past, many Church organizations, individual members and even seminary students took part in the festival, whether by donating trees, crafts and candy, or by purchasing trees. For example, seminary students at Taylorsville High School raised money by sponsoring dances and purchased a tree at the festival.

One unique tree donation was from the Apple Valley Ward, Salt Lake Butler Stake. As directed by Bishop Bill George, ward members Ben and Iris Spek created "Barnyard Christmas." Decorating a 10-foot tall tree were small wooden cows, pigs, lambs, chickens and geese, each on a little rocker. Also decorating the tree were 12-inch milk cans, quilted, stuffed hearts, and wooden cow bells on which were painted little elves.

To the side of the tree was a Nativity. The hand-painted, wooden figure display was four feet wide and about two feet high. Included in the Apple Valley donation was a four-foot tall arrangement of a wooden cow, lamb, pig and chicken from the popular children's story, "The Brementown Musicians."

Nearby stood a Christmas-tree shaped bird house in which sat a little wooden bird. Also included in "Barnyard Christmas" were a cheese box with a Santa scene painted on it, a hand-painted plate on an easel, a hand-quilted tree skirt, a crocheted rug and wooden place mats arranged on the floor with an apron and a cookbook. Adding a finishing touch was a grape-vine wreath decorated with cow bells.

Sister Spek said she was nervous and overwhelmed when Bishop George asked her and her husband to create the Christmas display, but she added she was pleased with the results. "It brought our ward together," she said, in speaking of the combined efforts of ward members to create the display.

A special moment for Sister Spek came after "Barnyard Christmas" was sold. "I was trying to find out who purchased the tree. A woman came up and said, I'm the one who bought it.' She gave me this huge hug and said,Thank you.' That just made my day." - Julie A. Dockstader

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