For Veronica Russell, Providence Seaside Hospital Foundation’s development specialist, “Christmas is about kids.”
Children bring magic to the holidays — their innocence, excitement and wonder awakening within adults the same feelings of joy and awe they experienced themselves in their youth, culminating in a rich, multi-generational spirit of celebration throughout the holiday season.
To generate an especially enchanting experience for children at this year’s Festival of Trees community open house, the Dec. 3 event will feature a new Candy Cane Lane, with expanded activities and offerings for young attendees.
An actress portraying Disney’s Princess Belle will sing and read stories on the mezzanine at the Seaside Civic and Convention Center, where the event will take place. The Sugar Plum Fairy, inspired by “The Nutcracker” ballet, will oversee the making of Christmas magic wands. Children also will get to decorate cookies, get their picture taken with Santa Claus, have their faces painted, work on craft projects and create and wrap hand-made ornaments to give to loved ones.
During a conference Russell attended — targeted for designers and organizers of various Festival of Trees events — she was inspired to bolster the experience for children and add a touch of Disney magic, as other organizations and communities had done.
“My vision for Candy Cane Lane is that people will come, families will come, to see the trees and see Santa and catch a good case of holiday spirit at the open house,” Russell said.
A winter wonderland
The 19th annual Providence Festival of Trees, hosted by the hospital’s foundation, also will retain many traditions the community expects and enjoys. Guests will experience the highly anticipated display of stunning Christmas trees that are festively decorated by local businesses, designers, florists and other north coast residents, Russell said.
Collectively, the trees create a holiday wonderland that serves as the inspiring setting for both the community open house and the following gala dinner and auction.
Some of the approximately 20 trees will be designed by Festival of Trees veterans who look forward to participating every year. New groups also are partaking in the festivities.
This year, local law enforcement agencies are using the festival as an opportunity to honor the memory of former Seaside Police Sgt. Jason Goodding, who died in the line of duty in February. The Seaside, Astoria, Warrenton, Gearhart and Cannon Beach police departments, along with the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office, are “pooling their energy together to come up with a memorial tree,” according to Russell.
The tree will have a police theme and be auctioned off with “experiential items,” she said. Russell has not seen the list yet but it might include items such as a ride-along or a trip to the shooting range with an officer.
“They’re going to come up with these experiences that kind of get the police officers face-to-face with the community,” Russell said. “So we’ll have what I’m calling ‘priceless experiences’ that aren’t something you can go out and buy — something very special.”
The proceeds from that tree alone will go into a special fund that will be used to memorialize Goodding in some way when the hospital’s emergency department is remodeled. Nothing specific has been determined, Russell said.
All other funds from this year’s festival will go toward the purchase of new three-dimensional tomosynthesis imaging equipment, the latest state-of-the-art mammography technology, which helps with early cancer detection and mitigates false positive results. There currently is not a similar machine on the north coast in Oregon, Russell said, and patients must drive to Portland or other larger cities. The equipment’s estimated cost is $400,000.
Purchasing the machine is the foundation’s yearlong goal, and they have accumulated more than $250,000 from other fundraising efforts and personal donations this year.
“Festival of Trees is going to be a good add-on to that,” Russell said, adding she feels fortunate her job includes working with a “very generous, remarkable community.”
“I get paid to work with the most generous people,” she added. “Everyone is so giving, caring and compassionate when it comes to healthcare and what we do.”
The trees and their accompanying goodies will be auctioned off, along with signature artwork by Paula Blackwell, during the elegant evening gala. The event — which gives north coast residents the uncommon opportunity to don their holiday finery to celebrate the holidays with community, Russell said — also includes a silent auction for donated items, as well as wreaths and 3-foot trees decorated by hospital staff members. Attendees also can enter a drawing for a week-long stay at an estate in Ireland.
The Festival of Trees is Providence Seaside Hospital Foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year. During the past 18 years, the event has raised more than $1.3 million to benefit a variety of community health services and programs provided by the hospital.
The open house runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. It is free to the public.
Doors open for the gala dinner and auction — also at the convention center — at 5:30 p.m. The cost is $100 per guest and tickets should be reserved by Dec. 1. For more information about the event or to reserve a seat for the gala, contact Russell at 503-717-7604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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