Spirit of Giving: Annual holiday fundraiser benefits hospital programs

Plenty of children's activities will be on tap during the Festival of Trees.
Looking to add sparkle and festive fun to your holiday to-do list while helping a good cause? Make plans to attend the 31st annual Festival of Trees, benefitting the new James C. Acheson Heart and Vascular Center, part of the Port Huron McLaren Foundation's $5 million campaign "Rising to New Heights," which supports the new patient tower, cancer center, and renovations throughout the hospital.


Festivities begin the evening of Dec. 6 with a ticketed preview gala. The preview party takes place from 7-10:30 p.m. and features an evening of entertainment, a sneak peek of the trees, a strolling buffet prepared by Vintage House, complimentary champagne, cash bar, and raffles. Valet parking is also included. Tickets are $125 and $95 for young adults aged 35 and younger.


The weekend-long event takes place Dec. 7-8 at the Blue Water Convention Center, 500 Thomas Edison Parkway in Port A variety of uniquely designed Christmas trees is sure to get you into the holiday spirit at the Festival of Trees.Huron. Doors are open from 10 a.m. -- 4 p.m. daily. Admission is $5.


"It's a great way to kick off the holiday season," says Jamie Guyor, event manager, McLaren Port Huron Foundation.


Thousands of visitors will be welcomed into holiday heaven by more than 50 uniquely designed Christmas trees, all prepared by a team of creative volunteers.


Sparkle, shine and creativity will be on display as guests weave their way through a twinkling winter wonderland, build their holiday spirit and inspiration for the season.


Tree themes run the gamut from traditional red and green, gingerbread, zoo animals, to Barbies and Santa Claus – and almost anything you can imagine.


"They are very creative, I've seen just about everything, which is great," Guyor says.


In addition to the trees, there are volunteers who design wreaths and holiday decor to be sold to fill the home with cheer.


There will also be raffles featuring donated goods from the community. Some of the top prizes include a family fun night, a TV, an iPad, and an arcade game. Smaller items are available, too. Raffle tickets are $1 each, so a small investment can lead to a big win.


The preview gala gives consumers a unique perspective of the Festival of Trees.The event is full of fun for children when they make a stop in Elfville.


Guyor, who has been working on the event for more than 10 years, says Elfville is an amazing children's area that features cookie decorating, a talking tree, a teddy bear hospital, crafts, fun holiday games, and even the big guy himself -- Santa Claus, will be there.


One of her favorite parts is the teddy bear hospital.


"It's just so sweet," she says.


Children can bring a teddy bear, or adopt one for a nominal fee, to get a health check-up. The bears receive a little X-ray to see how they are doing.


"It's a great way to tie the hospital back to the event," Guyor says.


Representatives from the St. Clair County Library System will also be on hand with a reading nook for guests to take a break and enjoy some Christmas stories, or even sign up for a library card.


Throughout the day, a variety of local acts will serve as entertainment, from dance schools to singers and bands, adding to the community feeling of the event.


Families who would like to get a little extra face time with Santa Claus can purchase tickets to a special breakfast Sunday morning. Registration is required. There will be two seatings, one at 9:30 a.m. and another at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for ages 6-12, and $5 for children under 5. Breakfast tickets include admission to the Festival of Trees.


With the generosity of the Wirtz Family Foundation and the employees of Wirtz Manufacturing, a special evening for families in need brings the holidays to many. Partnering with the St. Clair County DHS, families are invited to enjoy all the Festival of Trees has to offer on one exclusive night. Children visit Santa, receive a new toy and book and have dinner with their family.


"We are grateful to continue to provide families in our community with an evening embodying the joys of Christmas and are Excited children will get the opportunity to meet Santa during the Festival of Trees.thankful and proud of our team members for their enthusiasm in participating in this event,” said John W. Wirtz II, President, Wirtz Manufacturing Co., Inc. “They have worked together as a team to make sure the Evening of Giving is a very special night for families that attend.”


Event Co-Chair Tori Ferres is proud to be a part of the annual community event.


"I am honored to be returning as a Co-chair for the 31st Annual Festival of Trees,” Ferres says. “I chose to volunteer to not only become a part of the Festival of Trees tradition, but also to support McLaren Port Huron’s mission in bringing quality, comprehensive health care to St. Clair County. Like so many others in our community, I hope to continue to enjoy this fun, festive event for many years to come with my family."


Volunteers are always needed for the Festival of Trees, and they are a critical part of keeping things running smoothly.


Festival of Trees Co-chair Mallory Michaluk says volunteering gives people an opportunity to find something exciting to be a part of and to explore new things.


"Together, as a community, there are so many opportunities to volunteer and finding what excites you is my biggest advice for anyone looking to get involved, Michaluk says. “There’s plenty of opportunities in our community but being a part of McLaren Port Huron’s Festival of Trees is more than just helping out the hospital. The Festival of Trees is also a great way to help bring the community together as a kickoff for the start of the holiday season. This year I’m excited to be a part of the Festival and look forward to it being a success."


There are many great opportunities for students and the community to volunteer, including selling raffle tickets, assisting children with a holiday craft, decorating a cookie or playing games. Volunteers must be at least high school age. To sign up, or for more information, visit the Festival of Trees online.


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