Every year the Sooke Festival of Trees helps organizations and businesses engage with the community during the holiday season and gives individuals the chance to showcase their community spirit while simultaneously supporting sick kids.
This year, the 10th anniversary of the festival, a new approach is on offer as the festival has expanded to include, not only the trees on display at the SEAPARC Leisure Complex, but a series of trees that will be sponsored by local businesses – all to benefit B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation.
“We decided to move beyond SEAPARC and invite local businesses to sponsor trees that they’ll then display inside their businesses. We’ll make up a map for folks to follow to view the trees at those locations,” said Brenda Parkinson, who is helping organize this year’s event.
“People will be able to vote for their favourite tree after viewing all the trees at the various locations.”
Parkinson was quick to add that a large collection of trees will still be on display at SEAPARC as well.
“Those trees are generally sponsored by service groups and others who may not have an accessible location to display their tree.”
It’s an event that SEAPARC aquatic coordinator Elizabeth Olsen loves.
“I started to volunteer to oversee the festival a few years back, and now I guess I’ve sort of inherited the responsibility,” she said with a smile.
“But I don’t mind. Every year I get to see the looks on the children’s faces when they come in and see the trees and that makes it all worthwhile.”
The trees are certainly enough to amaze, not only children but adults who come to see the Christmas creations.
“It’s an opportunity for businesses, service groups and even individuals to show off their creativity and even to raise awareness for their particular causes or interests,” Parkinson said.
“It’s also is a tremendous way to build a sense of community spirit.”
It’s the root cause behind the Festival of Trees that is most important, Parkinson said.
“The festival offers the opportunity to contribute to the critical care of B.C.’s children and to support their families,” she said
One resident of Sooke, Corey Vink, is all too familiar with that support and continues to be a great supporter of the Festival of Trees.
“My son, Grayson, had his first heart surgery when he was only five days old. He spent the first month of his life in intensive care,” Vink said.
“Since that time he’s had two more surgeries, the last one about four years ago. While we were in we got regular visits from the foundation and a lot of support, and I know that they provide that care and more to others every day. They do such great work and anything I can do to help them in return is something I’m glad to take on.”
Vink said that his family will certainly be visiting the Festival of Trees and that Grayson will be sure to help the family pick out their favourite creation from among all the fantastic decorated trees.
Anyone interested in entering a tree in the Festival of Trees can pick up their application form at SEAPARC. The entry fee of $250 goes to the Children’s Hospital Foundation.
It’s also possible to sponsor donate a gift or gift certificate for the silent auction that will take place following the Dec. 4 kickoff event for the festival at SEAPARC. That event starts at 5 p.m. and will feature the Sooke Professional Fire and Rescue Association who will be bringing a fire truck along and providing a hands-on tour of the vehicle for the kids. The event will also offer hot chocolate and snacks and it’s rumoured that a certain jolly old elf will make an appearance as well.