A Different Way To Celebrate Festival

The University Hospital Foundation’s Festival of Trees wouldn’t exist without the dedicated and passionate volunteers – usually over 2,500 of them – that help organize and run the event each year. Although this year looks different with the Festival going virtual, it is still here thanks to the support of our devoted volunteers.

We sat down with three members of the Festival Steering Committee, Beryl Bacchus, Karey Heard and Kelly Scott-Gray, to learn more about why they love Festival of Trees and what we can look forward to this year.

Beryl first became involved with the Festival in 2012, starting as the Gala Evening & Auction chair. In 2018, she took on the additional role of Festival of Trees Chair. She has also been on the University Hospital Foundation’s Board since 2018, serving on the Funding Priorities Committee as well.

Karey has been the co-chair of the Luncheon & Fashion show since 2018. This year, she has taken on the role of Decorated and Delivered Chair.

Kelly became involved with the Festival as Co-Chair for the Silver Bell Soiree event which premiered in 2018, and since early 2020 became a member of the executive committee for the Festival of Trees.

For these three, the fundraising and being able to give back to the community is a big part of what makes the University Hospital Foundation’s Festival of Trees so special.

Beryl: My favourite part of volunteering is knowing we are making an impact in the community and a part of bringing innovative healthcare to Edmonton that helps saves lives.

Karey: I love the fact I can help raise money for the University Hospital Foundation every year by just volunteering my time.

Kelly: Raising funds for such important causes makes a huge difference for many members of our community, and improves the healthcare system of our province.

But that’s not all that makes Festival special.

Karey: I was in awe of the Festival the first time I went. I thought the event was magical. I’d never seen anything like it.

Kelly: We get to think about Christmas all year round. Seeing the creative ideas the team comes up with every year, and watching it come to life, is amazing.

Beryl: Festival of Trees has a special place in the hearts of so many Edmontonians – it reaches such a diverse community. I love the relationship building that happens every year.

Karey: It is one of the largest and oldest running Festivals in our city. The volunteers are so friendly, it’s like an extended family. I’m proud to help continue the tradition of the event and bringing the holiday magic to Edmonton.

Planning for this year’s event had to be completely rethought as soon as COVID-19 was detected in Alberta, and the team had to make the decision to cancel the in-person events. Volunteers knew that they would have to adjust and come up with a new plan with the University Hospital Foundation team. The Steering Committee quickly met to brainstorm.

Beryl: Our steering committee chairs are extremely creative. There were lots of ideas, and it took a few meetings to iron out the details. We chose initiatives that generally reflect the experience of Festival, but in a safe, and virtual way. Activities include live one-on-one or pre-recorded group visits with Santa, Storytime with Mrs. Claus, an online auction, decorated and delivered trees, and Festival in a Box for children and adults, where the spirt of Festival is delivered right to your door.

Committee chairs and volunteers have been putting in long hours of work to pull off this year’s activities. Planning for Festival usually begins right after the last of the decorations are packed up from the previous year. This year is almost like planning an entirely new event, but with less time.

Beryl: We’re fortunate to have a steering committee that comes with years of experience and a diverse skill set. With that, they have been very quick to adapt to this new way of executing Festival for 2020. They have really shown their passion for the event and cause.

This year, the University Hospital Foundation’s Festival of Trees is raising funds to support Alzheimer’s disease research. This research could be life changing not just for Edmontonians and Albertans, but for millions of people around the world.

You can book your virtual experiences today HERE and help support this ground-breaking research.

Beryl: We want to send a big thank you to all of our supporters – the community that supports us – the volunteers, the businesses, and the donors and participants. We could not create this magical event and continue to raise funds for the University Hospital Foundation year after year without you!

Our volunteers will miss seeing everyone at the kick-off to the holiday season in person, but we hope everyone has a happy and healthy holidays. We look forward to celebrating virtually with everyone this year.

Kelly: I’m excited to see the community get into celebrating the season in a different way this year. I’m sure there will be a lot of creative ways people respond! I hope everyone can celebrate the spirit of the Festival within their bubbles, and support us however they can.

Karey: I’m actually having a “Festival in a Box” (Adult) virtual party with my friends that I am looking forward to. I know that my friends that have small children are really looking forward to the “Festival in a Box” (Kids) and booking Santa Time. I also LOVE silent auctions and look forward to participating in many bidding wars at the online silent auction.

Visit festivaloftrees.ca to learn more about all of the activities available this year.

As I reflect on my first year as Chair of the University Hospital Foundation’s Board of Trustees, what moves me most is the impact we’ve had on patient care and research at the University of Alberta Hospital (UAH) site, and the progress we’ve already made in transforming health and health care around the world as part of Ignite 2030, our 10-year strategic plan.

Thanks to the generosity of our donors and support and collaboration with our corporate and strategic partners, we surpassed our fundraising goals and distributed over $20.2 million to critically important areas of care at the University of Alberta Hospital site and throughout the community we serve.

The record-breaking responses to Festival of Trees and Heart Pledge Day meant that people living with end-stage kidney disease and serious heart conditions will have even greater access to advanced, life-saving treatments.

Through the Brain Centre Campaign, UHF raised critical funds towards a Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit, and in February, the Government of Alberta approved the additional funding needed for the new state-of-the-art facility – the Leona and Kenneth Biggs & Dr. Peter B.R. Allen Neurosciences Intensive Care Unit.

Not only is that the best news possible for patients with life-threatening brain and spinal cord conditions, it also rewards the tireless efforts and steadfast determination of two of my predecessors – Jim Brown and Guy Scott – who, in addition to serving as UHF Board Chairs, co-chaired our very successful Brain Centre Campaign.

Donations to our COVID 19 Emergency Response Fund supported the frontline workers and medical teams by providing comfort in the form of care packages that expressed, in a small yet meaningful way, our immense gratitude for their commitment and resilience amidst unprecedented strain.

In a year of challenges posed by a still-present pandemic and an unpredictable economy, our donors, partners, fellow volunteers and of course, the dedicated staff at UHF, displayed similar determination and resolve.

And that’s why, thanks to all of you, Ignite 2030 is off and running. Our first full year of being Agents of Hope, continuously seeking solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems, is in the books – and I can feel the momentum growing with every passing day.

I would also like to take a moment to officially welcome our two newest board members, Naila Jivraj and Chris Gower. The expertise and experience you bring to UHF make us even stronger and more adaptable to the year ahead.

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