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Calvert Hospice Decks the Halls

Final year for Festival of Trees

In the Festival of Trees, Calvert Hospice forged a link between their end-of-life mission and joy in the world.
    For 27 years, on the day after Thanksgiving, Hospice volunteers have created a magical forest of Christmas trees adorned in whimsy and wonder.
    “It’s a wonderful event that really kicks off the season and gets everyone in the spirit of the holidays,” says Hospice board president Gail Gibson.
    Crafting the forest has called forth the creativity and charity of hundreds of supporters over the years. Sponsors pay $500 to $750 for a six-and-one-half-foot or a four-and-one-half-foot tree. Volunteers conceive and carry out elaborate designs, often over many years, each with timely creativity. Thus, when Bubbles the Calvert Marine Museum otter died, a tree was decorated in his memory. The theme was There’s No Otter Day Like Christmas; the decorations were little plush otters.
    Each year, a Memorial Tree is decorated in memory of patients who have passed since the last Festival of Trees. It is the tallest tree and is decorated with green and purple butterflies.
    Finally, 100 volunteers from Dominion Cove Point and Hospice spend two days setting up the trees and getting every last poinsettia in place for the weekend.
    This year brings 53 variations on the theme A Season to Remember in styles such as Disney’s Frozen, Mardi Gras, Angels Above and So Crabby Christmas.
    When all the work is done, the forest is enjoyed by “everyone in Calvert County,” Gibson said.
    Besides trees, the wonderland includes a poinsettia display in the from of a tree and visits with Santa, who arrives via fire truck both days thanks to the Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department. Shopping for holiday and kids’ activities keep the family busy.
    The $6 admission and the sponsorship fees have raised $1.1 million over 27 years to benefit Calvert Hospice, which cares for about four dozen patients each year in the six rooms of Burnett Calvert Hospice House.
    This is the last year the forest will rise.
    Organizers of Calvert Hospice’s longest-running and biggest fundraiser have run out of steam. They have announced that this is the final year for the event citing the difficulty in coordinating staff and volunteers plus the commitment of time and expenses.
    “We have found that the development of our other two events, the Culinary Event in April and the Luau in August, allows us to raise more money with less manpower,” says director of development Claire Piason. “While it is hard for many to see a holiday tradition end, we need to keep the Hospice House properly staffed and maintained so that it will always be the fine facility that the county has come to depend on as a resource for all residents in their time of need.”
    The Service of Remembrance will continue to be an annual event.
    This last year, you can take more than inspiration home. Two dozen trees are up for bid until 5pm Saturday, November 28. On Sunday, all the trimmings that have been collected over the last 27 years will be sold yard-sale style.

Festival of Trees: F Nov. 27. 5-9pm & Sa Nov. 28 9am-8pm. $6 w/age discounts; Sale Su 10am-1pm, St. John Vianney Family Life Center, Prince Frederick.