2012 Festival of Trees event promises color, pageantry and creativity, all for a good cause

Published: Sunday, Nov. 25 2012 1:04 p.m. MST

From left, second-graders Claire MacArthur, Katie Wilson, Halle Curtis and Monika Andersen make Christmas ornaments for the Festival of Trees at Eaglecrest Elementary School in Lehi on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

LEHI — Seven-year-old Max Hunt was working on filling his glass globe with crumpled, "zig-zag" strips of red, blue and white paper. The little brown-eyed, dark-haired lad knew doing a good job mattered.

Across the hall at Eaglecrest Elementary, his twin brother, MaKay, was trying to make his dangling red-and-blue Popsicle sticks into a wooden flag, getting red glitter and glue on his fingers and his desk.

Both boys understand their efforts will go to help critically ill kids at Primary Children's Medical Center.

The twins are in two of the five second-grade classes taught by Karen Chappell, Cassy Lewis, Jeanie Earl, Michael Thomas, Koreen Humphries and Kathy Covington that are putting together a "Duck for President" tree to donate to the 42nd annual Festival of Trees at South Towne Expo Center.

Hundreds of groups and families like the students of Eaglecrest Elementary and the Schroeders of Eagle Mountain work every year to create monuments in the form of trees, wreaths and candy houses to raise money for kids too young to pay their own bills and parents too overwhelmed to cover major medical costs.

Thus, for 42 years, the Festival of Trees, which traditionally features more than 700 trees for auction, has raised money for the medical center, a "gift of love" organized by a volunteer board of 85 women.

More than $30.8 million has been raised since 1971 with $1,655,931 raised last year.

"Duck for President," written by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin and released in 2004 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young readers, provided just the right story for teachers to create colorful ornaments while teaching their students about civics, said Chappell. "We wanted to teach lessons about democracy and voting along with involving them in community service," she said.

The result was a busy scene with children, teachers and parent helpers all working to create dozens of colorful, creative ornaments for their tree, including wooden glittery stars, Popsicle-stick flags, glass globes and cut-out starts with curly red-ribbon tails.

Toys around the bottom of the tree will represent animals from the story book.

Money raised from parents and friends helps pay for the supplies and toys. The school principal paid for the tree from school funds. It's the 13th year Eaglecrest has donated a decorated tree.

It's the first year for most of the young decorators, however. Most of them have never seen or been to the annual Festival of Trees but know they're involved in a good cause.

They understand their efforts will benefit children they probably will never meet. A few have known people who have been in the hospital for "heart cancer" and "lung trouble."

"I think it's more like people make trees for Primary Children's so they can pay," Halle Curtis said. "It makes them really happy."

Claire McArthur thought it was hard making the star ornaments. Josh Jackson thought they were turning out pretty.

Easton Josie had it down. "You have a bunch of these from like wrapping paper. You take something like a circle, cut them out, fold it and put this green pipe cleaner on it. Then it's supposed to open up," he said as he held up a ball of shiny pieces.

Stan Raass "used the dime thing" from his teacher's display about money as the pattern for his circles.

Ashtynn Alger was focused on sewing up the sides of her patriotic ornament. "You sew it like this. You put ribbon through the paper, put the flag in the middle."

"I think it's going to be really fun to help sick kids," said Skylee Deems.

"Yep. It's good," said Parley Porter as he worked glue onto his star.

"I'm excited," said Katie Wilson.

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