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.
"We're going to see it as a class on a field trip," said Curtis.
Makenzie Barron knows there will be lots of trees at the Festival.
Tess Walker, who's been there, assures her that "there are Christmas trees everywhere!"
Emily Furness goes every year and is always amazed.
"There's a bunch of trees and a whole bunch of people," said Kyler Young.
Katy Walker figures their tree may fetch $1,000.
"Or maybe over $100!" said Mikelle Madsen.
The Eaglecrest Elementary children will perform at the Festival on Nov. 30 at 10:15 a.m.
Meanwhile, for the Tracy Schroeder family of Eagle Mountain, it's their first year of making a tree donation.
They've wanted to do a tree every year since Primary Children's Medical Center physicians and staff helped save the life of Schroeder's now 10-year-old son, Bryan Dwight Schroeder.
He appeared perfectly healthy when he was born, but as his parents prepared to leave the hospital it was discovered he had multiple heart defects that required immediate surgery even though he was only a few days old.
He has recovered and today loves to run and play basketball. His family credits Primary Children's with his well-being and they've wanted to say thank you for years.
"This is the first time we've had the funds to do it," Schroeder said. "It's basically just our family so it's been quite a little bit of work."
The Schroeders held a family vote and chose "The Avengers at Christmastime" for their theme with action figures wired all over the tree.
"Their dad is a big comic-book fan and so is Bryan," said Tracy Schroeder.
To learn more go to: www.festivaloftrees.com.
If you go...
What: 2012 Festival of Trees including trees for sale, a gingerbread house lane, games and activities for children, a holiday boutique, wreath aisle, entertainment and food.
Where: South Towne Expo Center, 9575 S. State, Sandy
When: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Nov. 28-Dec. 1
Cost: $5 at the door ($4 discount tickets for seniors and at Zions Bank outlets)
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.