COVID-19 may have disrupted our lives and forced us to socially distance. But it can’t mess with Santa Claus or dim our holiday spirit.
The Intermountain Foundation and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital announced Thursday that one of the region’s most enduring holiday celebrations – the annual Festival of Trees – will go forward this year in a reimagined way that addresses challenges posed by the pandemic.
The Festival, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is produced by the Intermountain Foundation. The fun and festive tradition for Utah residents is a fundraiser to benefit children and families from across Utah and the Intermountain West who receive highly specialized care at Primary Children’s Hospital.
“I am so excited that Festival of Trees is continuing this year and that we’ll keep our great tradition alive while helping kids who get hurt or sick like me,” said Cami Carver, a 15-year-old cancer survivor who received chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant at Primary Children’s and today is pursuing an acting career.
“The doctors, nurses and staff at Primary Children’s are like family to me, and I want to help make sure other kids who need help can get the same kind of care I received,” Cami added.
The theme of the Festival is “Make Good Grow” reflecting both the rich 50-year history of the Festival and its mission to help sick and injured children grow up and reach their full potential.
The Festival will be held Dec. 1–5 and hosted by Vivint Arena, home of the Utah Jazz. While several elements of the Festival are still in development, some include:
– Specially decorated trees and other holiday items on display for online auction;
– A 90-minute live broadcast featuring stories of kids served by Primary Children’s, entertainers and other special guests from Vivint Arena;
– A digital hub at www.makegoodgrow.org that will feature event announcements, a virtual tree decorator, and photos and videos highlighting the history of the Festival, along with volunteers who help make it happen, and the children who benefit from care at Primary Children’s.
The website will also offer opportunities to bid on trees, purchase other holiday items, and donate to the hospital.
Every aspect of this year’s Festival will be conducted from a “safety first” vantage to assure adequate COVID-19 protections for participants, volunteers, and the community.
“This has been a very challenging year for our community, and the 50th anniversary of the Festival is the perfect opportunity to unify us all with the ultimate holiday event that combines our long-standing traditions with new event activities and performances – in the safest way possible,” said Melinda Simmons, Intermountain Foundation Community Development Board chair at Primary Children’s Hospital, for which the annual Festival of Trees is a signature event.
Primary Children’s Hospital is a not-for-profit, nationally-ranked pediatric acute care teaching hospital that serves seriously injured and sick children in a five-state Intermountain West region that includes Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, as well as Alaska – an area of roughly 400,000 square miles.
The 289-bed hospital operates the region’s only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center, a 32-bed pediatric Intensive Care Unit and a Level 4 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that treats newborns.
Primary Children’s was named one of America’s “Best Children’s Hospitals” in eight subspecialties for 2020-21 by U.S. News and World Report – including a No. 1 ranking in neurology and neurosurgery patient outcomes.
The Festival of Trees was founded in 1970 by a group of community women who wanted to support children’s services in Utah, learned of a Christmas tree auction in Hawaii, and modeled their event after that.
Over the years, the Festival has been supported by thousands of donors, volunteers, and families who look forward to gazing at and bidding on beautifully and often whimsically decorated trees, purchasing holiday gifts such as wreaths, scones and fudge, and enjoying a festive community gathering in the weeks before Christmas.
Last year’s Festival attracted about 100,000 visitors and raised about $2.6 million to support programs at Primary Children’s.
“Primary Children’s Hospital is at the heart of our ongoing efforts to expand access to highly specialized children’s services that simply aren’t available elsewhere to children and families in need across the Intermountain West,” said Katy Welkie, CEO of Primary Children’s and Vice President of Intermountain Children’s Health. “The Festival plays a critical role in spotlighting our mission and in raising crucial funding for Primary Children’s Hospital, while at the same time serving as our community’s kick-off to the holiday season.”
Intermountain Foundation Board Chair Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank, expressed gratitude that the Utah Jazz and Vivint Arena staff had offered to partner with this year’s Festival and provided the arena as a home to the event.
“I am pleased and excited that we’re able to use Vivint Arena to host this year’s Festival and to help bring cheer to the community and the kids at Primary Children’s,” Anderson said. “We are humbled and grateful for the generosity of Vivint Arena and the thousands of community members and volunteers who are helping us to continue the magic of Festival of Trees for the benefit of children. While this year's event will look different due to the pandemic, our commitment to support the health and well-being of the children we serve is stronger than ever as we embark on our goal to build the nation’s model health system for children.”
Jim Olson, President of Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment and the Utah Jazz, said it is a privilege for Vivint Arena to host the Festival of Trees.
“The Festival of Trees and its beneficiary Primary Children’s Hospital are in the hearts of all of us at Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment, and we are delighted to host the 50th anniversary of this meaningful holiday tradition,” Olson said. “Vivint Arena is a community gathering place for memorable experiences, and even in these unique circumstances, the Festival of Trees is a magical time for children and families to view and bid on these beautifully decorated trees and holiday items. With the size and accessibility of the arena, we hope to bring holiday cheer and offer an array of seasonal events in a safe and socially distanced way.”
While the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring cast doubt on whether it would be possible to hold the Festival of Trees in 2020, supporters decided to move forward for the benefit of kids and the community – and vowed to help make this year’s reimagined event bigger and better than ever.
“By launching the Festival’s new virtual elements, including the website and live broadcast, we’re hoping to reach far more people than ever throughout the region, bringing some much-needed holiday cheer to families and spreading the message that we can all ‘make good grow’ by supporting this year’s Festival,” said Shauna Davis, who is Chair of the Festival of Trees Volunteer Board and whose family has a long history of support for the event. “Our message is simple: Spread the word. Join us. Let’s have some fun and show the world we can overcome what COVID-19 has thrown at us and make this year’s Festival the best ever.”
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