Festival of Trees depends on volunteer decorators

Festival of Trees, an annual fundraiser for the Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital Foundation, is seeking volunteers to decorate trees, wreaths and other seasonal items for the auction. This year’s event will take place Nov. 8. (Pioneer file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — For several years, the Festival of Trees has kicked off the Christmas season in Big Rapids.

This year’s auction will take place on Nov. 8, and organizers are seeking volunteer decorators for trees and wreaths, as well as people who are willing to help in other ways.

Traditionally, the event involves community members bidding for pre-decorated Christmas trees, wreaths and other seasonal decor. Proceeds from the auction serve as one of the Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital Foundation’s main fundraisers for the year.

“The event is a great way for people to showcase their talents and support a good cause,” said Dee Van Horn, foundation board chair. “We’re grateful for the creative and generous people in our community who make this event a success every year.

“This year, we’re really encouraging people to think of other alternatives to trees and wreaths, as well,” she continued. “If people don’t feel like they’re very artistic or crafty but want to contribute, maybe they have a special dinner recipe they’d be willing to make for people or they have a boat and they could take people on an evening cruise. We call these types of auction items ‘experiential items’ and we’re trying to encourage people to think of these things.”

A Festival of Trees wouldn’t be complete without trees, however. Chemical Bank has donated 30 4-foot and 7-foot trees and a variety of wreaths to be decorated. Individuals interested in decorating an item for the auction should contact Laurie Alighire at (616) 391-9125 by Nov. 1 to ensure all items are listed in the bidders’ catalog at the auction.

“Some people may be inspired to create something they’ve seen on Pinterest or at a local craft show,” Van Horn said. “Don’t limit creativity to trees and wreaths — all items are welcome!”

Undecorated trees or wreaths can be picked up from Patterson’s Flowers in Big Rapids and taken home to decorate. Ornaments should be glued, wired or otherwise securely attached to the tree, wreath or other decorative object to ensure it remains intact during transportation. For pick-up and delivery information, contact Alighire.

The live Festival of Trees auction will begin with a wine and hors d’oeurve reception at 6 p.m. on Nov. 8 in ballrooms A and B of the University Center on the Ferris State University campus. The event was moved from its traditional venue to allow for more room for items and auction-goers, Van Horn said. The auction will begin at 7 p.m.

Tickets cost $25 in advance or $30 at the door, and can be purchased at Chemical Bank, Patterson’s Flowers and online at give.spectrumhealth.org/festivaloftrees. Proceeds from the event will go toward the purchase of an advanced simulator mannequin to be used for training by hospital personnel.

A simulation mannequin can be programmed to simulate any condition a patient might experience and provide realistic patient responses, including making pain noises, talking to health professionals, having a pulse and more.

“The sky’s the limit,” said Shannon Behling, director of clinical nursing at Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City Hospitals. “It’s real-life practice, for individual skills, team interaction, better dialog during actual patient care and a more effective learning experience than reading or discussing procedures.”

The mannequin can be used by an entire medical team at the same time, much as an entire team would be involved in a patient’s care. When multiple people use the mannequin at the same time, they are able to improve their coordinated response, Behling explained.

With a number of available customization options, the exact price of the mannequin is unknown, but the rough cost estimate is $40,000-plus. Hospital officials expect it will take more than one fundraiser to collect enough money to pay for the mannequin.

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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