Each year, thousands of groups, businesses, families and individuals come together to earn money for a great cause. Through this effort, they also exercise high levels of creativity while memorializing those they care about.
Festival of Trees, now in its 43rd year, is a fun and festive fundraiser put on each December by volunteers where 100 percent of the money earned benefits the children at Primary Children’s Hospital. Two of these volunteers are living among us in our community.
Dana Zinz of Mountain Green has been involved with Festival of Trees for the past eight years. After her brother-in-law Shawn was hit by a drunk driver at age 13, he spent three days in the ICU in a Pittsburgh hospital before passing away. Throughout the trying time, the family saw how devoted the hospital staff was and was grateful for all that had been done for them. This spurred the desire in their hearts to give back.
That year, the Zinz family decided to donate a tree in Shawn’s honor. The tree was decorated with the dirt bike theme representing Shawn’s passion. Zinz realized through the donation that they got back as much as they gave.
She shares, “We realized that we received so much joy from decorating and donating that tree, that we decided to do one every year. We are so fortunate to have our health and our families for Christmas. We often forget the ones who don’t.”
For many, decorating the trees is a family affair. Zinz is grateful for the opportunity she has each year to decorate a tree with her mother and two sisters. Each year she gets excited to pick a theme for the upcoming year’s tree and to begin formulating a plan. “We all love to decorate for Christmas. Why not decorate a tree and help the children? It’s the best of both worlds,” she states.
Jeanne Fry of Morgan began her affiliation with Festival of Trees nine years ago. The Fry family’s first tree was a way to say thank you.
After their fifth child, Matthew, was born, he was diagnosed with having multiple heart defects. It was a very scary period because at that time, there was no surgery available to fix the problems. They spent many, many days at Primary Children’s, and eventually he was able to have a surgery to correct the defects.
Nine years ago as Matthew was leaving on an LDS mission, they decided to do a tree in his name to give other people who may be in a similar situation hope, as well as to thank the doctors, staff and hospital who had worked so diligently to save their child.
Because Jeanne was grateful that Matthew was well and able to have the opportunity to serve a mission, she thought it would be fun to write to all of the mission presidents throughout the world asking them to send an ornament representing their country to adorn the tree. Soon packages began arriving, with over 2/3 of the missions sending in ornaments or nativities. At auction night their tree was purchased by a mission president and has been on display each year in the mission department at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Office Building.
Throughout the years, she has decorated trees in honor of several other family members. One tree was made in honor of Carolyn, her sister who had passed away of cancer. One was decorated for her niece, Joan, who died of the same, and one for a niece’s son, Ian, who passed away from a heart defect.
Each was thoughtfully decorated to represent the person to whom they were dedicated. Ian would have been turning 16 and getting his driver’s license the year he passed away, so for his tree she picked a cars theme. Using her creativity she refurbished a desk using license plates, made a clock out of a hubcap and a stool out of tire rims.
Because Joan was a wonderful seamstress, she created a craft cabinet to go with her tree. Working with her daughters and her daughters-in-law (Kathy, Nikki, Jodi, Tenielle and Amy) she has put together not only trees, but has refinished furniture and made a beautiful nativity with a technique known as paper piecing. This difficult, intricate, time-consuming project was made out of fabric and the end result was exquisite. Her daughter Nikki has rendered a pastel drawing of Mary and the baby Jesus using a model from their ward.
This year Fry has built a potting bench out of salvaged wood to go with her tree, creating an outdoor scene. Using creativity and thrift, she has been able to use her money and time to turn it into a much larger donation as each tree is auctioned off at the festival.
Fry starts her hunt for ornaments and decorations each year the day after Christmas. By buying her decorations on clearance as well as searching thrift stores and yard sales, she is able to purchase the items for next year’s tree. She urges others to get involved by decorating their own tree.
Admittedly nervous the first year, she soon realized that the trees range from the simplest to the most extravagant and there is room for everyone. Fry states, “You don’t have to be a professional decorator or have a lot of money. Don’t be intimidated, just do it. Have fun and jump into it.”
It has now become one of the Fry family’s favorite traditions. Everyone can participate in the festivities even without donating a tree.
With over 700 trees to admire, a sweet shoppe, kids activities, gingerbread village, ELF emporium, gift boutiques and entertainment, there is something at the festival for everyone. Whether it is donating, purchasing a tree or attending the event, everyone can help support this great cause. Raising over $33 million dollars since 1971 and $1,871,546.91 last year alone, Festival of Trees helps many families afford the care their loved ones need.
The Festival of Trees will be held December 4-7, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. daily at the South Towne Expo Center, 9575 South State, Sandy. Discount tickets can be purchased at Zions Bank.
An opening night auction will be held Tuesday, Dec. 3, by invitation only. Invitations are available for purchase. Children under 16 not admitted on auction night. To purchase tickets to the auction, please call (801) 662-5957.
For those interested in donating a tree for next year, sign-ups commence in July.