The elves are in a hurry, making sure all the ornaments are ready in time. They are scurrying about, checking the list twice.
In a hurry for what, you may ask … for only the signature Holiday event of the season …
The Festival of Trees!
And, we’re getting excited! It’s a cozy, Canadian Christmas wonderland this year.
Our tree will be filled with pieces representing a Canadian Christmas, what we’d see looking out our living room windows onto the vast prairie wilderness - pine cones, knitted bits and bobs, wooden pieces, and snow. Lots and lots of snow.
Oh, let’s not forget our national emblem … Toques! The elves are really excited about the toques.
A Little Festival of Trees History
Unbeknownst to many Edmontonians, the Festival of Trees is currently in its 32nd year of fund- and friend-raising, as they love to call it. Their saying truly grabs the heart strings. Perhaps more so when you hear what they fundraise for.
As Edmonton’s premiere fundraiser, it catapults us into the Holiday spirit. Walking into the Festival, you feel as though you’ve entered your own private snow globe full of Christmas cheer.
Over the last 31 years, the Festival of Trees has successfully raised over $18.5 Million for the University Hospital Foundation, the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, and the Kaye Edmonton Clinic. Such an amazing feat accomplished with the astounding help of over 2,000 dedicated volunteers, corporate sponsors, and of course, the individual donors.
Each year, the Festival of Trees amasses over 5,000 sponsored trees, decorated to their theme. They also have cakes and gingerbread houses (all edible!) donated and created to the year’s theme.
The Causes that Drew Me In
The University Hospital Foundation, alongside the Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute and the Kaye Edmonton Clinic, work together to help save the lives of Edmontonians, and Canadians alike.
In 2014, the first year I sponsored Flourish Design & Merchandising’s Christmas tree design, the University Hospital Foundation was raising funds for the expansion of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.
The following year, they raised over $1Million to equip trauma and complex surgery teams with the advanced technology the teams needed to save more of our friends’ and families’ lives.
This year, this year, their cause is near and dear to my heart.
Saving Lives of Rural Albertans Suffering from Strokes
The Festival of Trees is set to break all fundraising records as they strive to put the first Stroke Ambulance on the roads in Canada. With over 35,000 visitors and the $1Million raised during last year’s festival, this year is set to get many Albertans opening their hearts to support an important addition to our health services.
The Stroke Ambulance will help stroke patients outside urban centres reduce the length of time between the onset of their stroke and their treatment.
Did you know, as a stroke patient, you only have about 4.5 hours for treatment with clot-busting drugs to prevent severe side-effects of a stroke?
Four-and-a-half hours. That’s it. Four-and-a-half hours.
With technology and diagnostics at their finger tips, the Stroke Ambulance’s teams will be able to check for brain haemorrhages (CT scan) and begin treatment while on route to the University of Alberta hospital.
An excerpt from the Globe and Mail’s interview with Dr. Ashfaq Shuaib, director of the University of Alberta’s stroke program:
“Stroke is more likely to result in disability than cause death,” says Dr. Shuaib. “Less than 10 percent of patients recover fully, and one-third to one-half are severely disabled. If someone cannot be treated within the crucial window – and they are disabled and require nursing care – the cost is around $100 thousand for six months.”
“If we can treat stroke faster and change the level of disability the individual has from major to minor, it can save the health system about $1-million over their lifetime,” adds Shy Amlani, program manager for Alberta Health Services’ stroke program.
“We’re excited that we have the potential to increase the quality of life for those individuals who live farther away from stroke care. And grateful to the generous donors who are making it possible.”
A Weekend for Family Fun and Cherished Christmas Memories
The Festival of Trees’ activities actually start long before the doors open for family frolicking Thursday evening. This year’s Gala Dinner kicks the fundraising off Wednesday, November 23. This is where all the elves’ hard work pays off … the cakes, the gingerbread houses, the trees are auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Celebrating the Wise, Expertise of Fellow Edmontonians
Thursdays, the Festival gives thanks to Edmonton’s senior - our mature and wise - citizens with free admission all day. What a great way to spend the day without all the hustle and bustle of crowds rushing you through the snow-globe wonderland.
From High Fashion to Santa’s North Pole
Friday’s festivities begin with the Luncheon and Fashion Show. Thereafter, the doors open to the public, inviting friends and families to wander through their Canadian Winter Wonderland, visiting the Christmas Lane, where children have the chance to meet with Santa and drop their hand-written notes in the Christmas post office box. They are able to sit and enjoy some Christmas storytelling or put their little hands to work on some Christmas crafts.
I have enjoyed spending my Saturday at the Festival of Trees with my daughter and grandchildren. From crafts to stories to Santa, they move about with such wonderment. Hearing their excitement as their eyes catch the sparkle of another beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
From My Family to Yours
Join us Saturday, November 26th, down at the Festival! We’d love for you to join us as we frolic through the sparkle, the lights, and Edmonton's Christmas spirit.
You might even be able to talk us into joining you and your loved ones on Sunday at Santa’s Breakfast … who can resist Santa’s pancakes?