From the outside, Hospice of Redmond’s Festival of Trees is a unique event heralding the start of the holiday season. But from the inside, it is so much more.
“Not a person walks away without being impacted,” said Andrea Springer, Festival of Trees Coordinator and Hospice of Redmond Board President. “It is magical, powerful, sad, and overwhelming.”
As Hospice of Redmond’s only fundraising event of the year, Festival of Trees has been a cornerstone of Central Oregon holiday events. Now in its 40th year, the event will be bigger than ever, with a goal of showcasing 40 trees. It will be hosted in two buildings at the Deschutes County Fairgrounds to accommodate the additional trees and anticipated guests. Proceeds from decorated trees, miscellaneous auction items, and ticket sales help fund many of the nonprofit’s hospice services and programs, including Camp Sunrise, a free grief camp for children. The event also helps fund Pet Peace of Mind, a national program and the only program of its kind in Central Oregon that allows hospice patients to keep their pets at home throughout their end-of-life journey.
To get a feel for the impact Festival of Trees has on those who experience it firsthand, we sat down with three long-time volunteers, Andrea Springer, Debbi Blair, and Tammi Ford, to ask them why they continue volunteering each year.
A Celebration of Life
Andrea Springer has been a fixture at Hospice of Redmond since 2010. Now, after 14 years, Andrea is retired but serves on the Hospice of Redmond Board as President and Festival of Trees Coordinator. To Andrea, Festival of Trees is a magical celebration of life.
“Some people decorate a tree for fun, but many decorate trees in honor of a family member. Not a person walks away from the event without being impacted somehow.”
The trees are decorated using local items that honor heritage and home and often have a significant meaning to the person being honored. Several decorators come back each year and decorate a tree to honor lost loved ones. Andrea tells the story of one woman who decorated trees for 20 years but never put up a tree in her home. So, one year, someone bought her tree and then donated it back to her. The following day, she got a knock on the door with the delivery of a beautiful tree she now proudly displays in her home.
“This kind of thing happens a lot,” said Andrea.
Chaotic and Hectic and Amazingly Beautiful
The gala is breathtaking, with ambiance, fantastic food, and beautiful shimmering trees. But even before the lights get dimmed, magic is happening.
“It is a bit like a traditional family Christmas – chaotic and hectic and then amazingly beautiful at the end,” Tammi Ford, Festival of Trees volunteer.
With around 150 volunteers and staff, the planning and preparation for Festival of Trees begins just a few weeks after the preceding year’s event ends.
Tammi Ford has been volunteering with Hospice of Redmond since 2015 after her father passed away while on hospice with another provider. While she was grieving, Andrea Springer was her “lifeline.” Later, Andrea invited Tammi’s two children to Camp Sunrise, and the rest is history.
That fall, Tammi’s daughter Taylor, who was in ROTC, wanted to create a tree to honor her grandfather, who was a veteran. They dedicated a raffle tree and sold raffle tickets. Each person who bought a raffle ticket received a purple ribbon.
“The tree was the tiniest thing we’ve ever seen, and we were amazed to see people purchase a raffle ticket for such a tiny tree compared to the others,” said Tammi.
Tammi has witnessed friends over the years lose family members and then create a beautiful tree in their memory. Watching them set up with such emotion and pride for their loved ones is special.
“Festival of Trees is not so much about the event but watching loved ones get honored after their death,” said Tammi.
To Tammi, the real magic happens the day prior when decorators are setting up their trees. Being in the room listening to the stories is powerful, and it is also healing.
“The decorators and volunteers are there to help one another and to have good, healthy, happy conversations about their loved ones, and being there to listen to these conversations is the most important part for me,” said Tammi.
Love and Compassion During a Difficult Time
Debbi Blair’s introduction to Festival of Trees began as a contractor for Hospice of Redmond.
“In 2013, I got a call from Hospice of Redmond as they were looking for someone who is a Licensed Massage Therapist who could work on patients,” Debbi said.
Debbi traveled all over Central Oregon, providing what she calls comfort touch.
“It is amazing how seldom hospice patients get this gentle form of touch,” said Debbi. “I thought it would be a blessing for them to receive it, but I ended up also receiving the blessing through the experience.”
The first year, Debbi and her husband created a small, simple tree. Then, for the next two years, she and a friend decorated two more trees before being asked by Andrea Springer to decorate the public spaces that lead into the Gala Hall.
When asked why she volunteers her time after giving for so many years, Debbi’s answer was impactful.
“For me, hospice means so much. After watching my grandfather die of bone cancer when I was 18 and seeing my grandmother have a stroke during this time because of the stress, I know that hospice would have made that time so much easier.”
Debbi sees the love and compassion that comes through repeatedly when she watches the staff care for people during such a difficult time. Her why is because she loves what Hospice of Redmond stands for, and she loves the many people she’s worked with through the years.
We invite you to experience Festival of Trees from the inside so that you may understand why so many Central Oregonians cherish it. Tickets to attend Festival of Trees are on sale now. You can learn more about the event and purchase them here.
We have several opportunities to participate in Festival of Trees. If you are interested in participating as a volunteer or as a tree decorator, please contact us at (541) 548-7483.