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For kids, annual Christmas Festival of Trees is a gift |

For kids, annual Christmas Festival of Trees is a gift

The annual Christmas Festival of Trees raises money for the Sandhills Children’s Center.

PINEHURST — They are trees with a purpose.


The dozens of elaborate Christmas trees displayed at the Carolina Hotel are more than just holiday decorations. For the Sandhills Children’s Center, they mean help for kids with special needs.

For more than 20 years, the center’s Festival of Trees has provided an outlet for local folks to express their Christmas creativity while raising money for children in the process.

This year’s festival was held Nov. 28- Dec. 1. The center’s Festival Marketplace, another fundraiser, will be held today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Carolina Hotel.

“We do five fundraisers a year and this is by far the biggest one,” said Robin Duff, community relations representative for the Sandhills Children’s Center. “It covers about 10 percent of our budget. And it’s all for children who have special developmental needs.”

People bid for the trees online at prices ranging from around $100 to thousands of dollars. For each tree, there is a “buy now” price for people who want to skip the bidding process and just claim their tree.

For the festival, the non-profit center asks people and businesses in the community to decorate a tree in any way that strikes their fancy. And it goes beyond just the tree — most of them are surrounded by items that tie into the theme of the tree, and it all comes with the price.

For instance, a Carolina Hurricanes tree comes with tickets to see the ‘Canes as well as team T-shirts and other items. A local restaurant and pub includes six-packs of some of its signature brews.

“There are kid trees and there are adult trees,” Duff said. “One year, we had a fishing tree that was decorated with fishing lures.”

The artificial trees, which range in height from 2 to 7½ feet tall, are provided by the center. But the sometimes-quirky themes are purely the decorators’ own.

And most of them spare no effort in bringing the trees to life.

A tree sponsored by the Pinehurst Resort comes with golf hats, tees, range bags and golf balls. Another tree, sponsored by Flowland Counter-Culture Outlet in Aberdeen, comes with industrial hemp items grown in North Carolina.

There is a “It’s a Dog’s Life” tree that comes complete with puppy treats and toys, a “Child’s Play” tree that comes with classic games such as Lite Brite and Uno, and a Mickey Mouse-themed tree.

“The trees with liquor do very well,” said Duff, leading a tour of the festival recently. “We have a tree that’s entirely made out of wine. There’s a Scotch tree.”

Perhaps the most elaborate tree this year is the one sponsored by Lane and Associates Family Dentistry.

Titled “Baking Spirits Bright,” the tree is decorated with baking items and hand-painted ornaments and comes surrounded by items including cookbooks, subscriptions to cooking magazines and more. The “buy now” price on that tree was $7,425.

“Where do you find a Christmas tree ornament that’s a bowl of pasta?” said Duff, pointing out a tree sponsored by Lowe’s Foods. “It blows my mind how creative they are.”

Along with the trees, items such as wreaths, kitchen accessories and gift baskets were also available for bids during the auction.

Ultimately though, the Festival of Trees is all about the kids. The Sandhills Children’s Center has campuses in Southern Pines and Rockingham and focuses on children with special developmental needs from birth to age 5.

During the festival, the center chooses six children — three at each campus — and donates a kid-themed tree to each.

This year’s recipients include Joshua, a 4-year-old with spina bifida and other conditions; Christopher, a 5-year-old with autism; and 4-year-old Isaiah, who suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

Isaiah’s tree featured a superhero theme.

Although the center sponsors other fundraising efforts, including a golf tournament and duck derby, the Festival of Trees is by far its biggest. Duff said past festivals have raised as much as $300,000 for the center.

It takes a lot of work to put together, with planning usually beginning in January. And Duff said by the end of the auction, every tree is gone.

“Sometimes it’s not the price we’d like,” she said, “but we don’t want to take anything home with us.”

 

Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at rmullen@fayobserver.com or 910-486-3561.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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