The Festival of Trees provides festive way to help children

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By Harlee Hunsaker

Editor’s Note: This story was part Universe Live’s December magazine show for The Daily Universe Magazine.

Christmas trees are symbols of all things Christmas: family, traditions, presents. But to the Festival of Trees and Primary Children’s Hospital, they represent a lot more.

Regular people doing extraordinary things, that’s what happens here at the Festival of Trees in Sandy.

“So this is my 16th year serving on the board for the Festival of Trees,” festival co-chair Jennifer Ward said. She volunteers her time and talents as a way to give back.

“Most of the trees that are donated are people who are donating because they’ve had an experience at Primary Children’s Hospital and they want to give back,” Ward said.

People donate decorated trees to be auctioned off and then all proceeds go directly to Primary Children’s Hospital.

“I wanted to do something a little different, but I didn’t want it to be so different that somebody might not want to buy it,” tree donor Jenny Ashcraft said. Ashcraft donated a tree back in 2019 with the theme being a French Christmas.

“My daughters and I would sit down during the year, and put on a movie and hand paint these ornaments,” Ashcraft said. 

The tree took over 100 hours to finish and included hand-painted and 3D printed ornaments.

So why put so much effort and time into a tree? Ashcraft said she did it for a little boy named Gabe who had a life-threatening heart surgery.

“Watching him and his parents and the courageous way that they fought this life-and-death medical battle with their son, we wanted to dedicate this tree to little Gabe,” Ashcraft said.

Ashcraft’s tree sold for $5,000 and every bit of it went to bless the lives of children at Primary Children’s Hospital.

“There’s very few things that would inspire all of that time and money as an investment on our part, except for a children’s hospital,” Ashcraft said.

It’s not only trees that can be donated. You can donate quilts, wreaths, nativities, gingerbread houses and more. Underneath all the icing and ribbons and themes, the heart of it all is the children.

“We’re all volunteers and we all have a reason why we do festival and most of it comes back to somebody that we know that’s been at Primary Children’s Hospital,” Ward said.

This year individuals can cozy up by their own Christmas tree with hot chocolate and participate in the Festival of Trees online. Their website will show how to participate and walk you through all the ways you can get involved.

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