A quarter-century of caring culminates at this year’s Providence Festival of Trees.
The annual holiday benefit has raised more than $8 million for programs and services at Providence Medford Medical Center over the past 24 years. With Providence Community Health Foundation as its designated beneficiary, the 25th annual event “highlights various good works,” says Katie Shepherd, the foundation’s executive director.
Cancer, charity care and the Swindells Resource Center are the foundation’s special causes, each identified with its own tree, for the second consecutive year. Unlike 2015’s focus on breast cancer, this year’s effort encompasses all cancers, with an emphasis on alternative therapies.
“We’re going to highlight some art therapy,” says Shepherd, adding that art will be reflected in the theme of the festival’s cancer-treatment tree.
More than 30 large trees, 20 tabletop tannenbaums and as many as 25 miniature trees, holiday mantelpieces and wreaths are expected to fill the Medford Armory, says Arlene Wedsted, Providence foundation’s event coordinator.
“Willy Wonka,” “Finding Dory” and “Candy Land” are just a few of the themes to delight kids, as well as adults’ inner child, she says. Plenty of lavishly and traditionally decorated trees also populate the festive forest.
Several trees and other popular gifts are reserved for raffling during the public event, Friday through Sunday, Dec. 2-4. A Disney tree, an entertainment tree and a locally made, handcrafted dollhouse have been perennially popular. New this year, says Wedsted, is an array of buffet-style serving items and other pieces of decor by Medford artist and longtime festival designer Donna Sherbourne.
“Christmas has always been my favorite holiday,” says Sherbourne, who has been contributing designs to the festival for approximately the past 15 years. “It’s just a good fit.”
Sherbourne’s own experience as a Providence patient fit right into last year’s bequest to breast cancer treatment and research. After the auction’s breast-cancer paddle call raised a record-setting $101,000, an awestruck Sherbourne took the stage to express gratitude on behalf of the disease’s survivors.
“When cancer is in the same sentence as your name, it is so frightening,” says Sherbourne of her 2002 diagnosis. “If I can help out in any way, having gone through it, I’m there.”
Boasting the highest fundraising sum in seven years — $546,000 — the 2015 festival also marked the 13th consecutive year that proceeds exceeded $400,000. Previous festival beneficiaries include Providence’s interventional recovery unit, Palliative Care, Spine Institute, BirthPlace, Carl Brophy Stroke Program and the da Vinci robotic surgical system.
The spirit of giving extends from the opening-night gala to the holiday party, which will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, Tickets cost $50 in advance or at the door to attend the evening of food, wine and beer that also features raffle drawings, music and dancing.
Musical entertainment also sets the tone for each day of public viewing, courtesy of local school and community bands, choirs and dance troupes. The festival’s five days of merrymaking drew more than 15,000 adults and kids last year, says Wedsted.
Among mainstay attractions are visits with Santa Claus and tours of the Teddy Bear Hospital, where kids 12 and younger can run a full checkup on stuffed companions using an X-ray image box to see its heart and a broken bone for bandaging. Bears will be available for purchase for $5.
Children can see Santa free of charge during all hours of the festival’s public events. Photography with personal cameras is permitted; professional photos with Santa cost $5 apiece.
Admission prices are $5 for adults and $3 for seniors 60 and older and children 12 and younger. Seniors get in free on Friday, kids on Sunday.
— Reach freelance writer Sarah Lemon at email@example.com.