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Photos: Estevan's Festival of Trees attracts thousands, raises big money

The community was once again very generous with its support for the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation's Festival of Trees.

ESTEVAN - Another successful Festival of Trees, organized by the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation, brought thousands of people together during the weekend.

The kick-off to the Christmas series of festive and fun events started with the Estevan Kinettes' Christmas Marketplace, and was followed by a busy Festival of Trees gala at Affinity Place on Saturday.

The festive night offered entertainment by the Bromantics, live and silent auctions, a jingle and mingle hour, several raffles and supper, with all funds raised going towards the St. Joseph's Hospital's Christmas wish list.

"On behalf of St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation staff and directors, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for being part of our 11th annual Festival of Trees. Today, we celebrate the generosity of our community as they continue to give back in a way that has enabled us to continue to support local health care in southeast Saskatchewan," said SJHF executive director Lori Gervais in her remarks at the gala.

 "Tonight, we come together as one community to support a cause that affects us all. With your help, we are able to support our hospital right here at home."

Gervais also thanked the Festival of Trees committee for their passion for the event and help with the organization, and all the sponsors and supporters.

St. Joseph's Hospital executive director Candace Kopec thanked the community at the gala as well, and talked about how the funds raised locally allow the hospital to stay on top of renovations and updating the equipment. She also acknowledged and thanked the hospital leadership and other staff.

Eight trees were available during a live auction at the gala, along with several trips and a Michael Lonechild original painting. Among the trees, Countdown to Christmas sold for the most money, with $3,700 going towards the diagnostic imaging ward. The most expensive item of the night was a Caribbean cruise, which sold for $7,750. The Bromantics' drumsticks, meanwhile, sold for $300. The total for 15 items sold through the live auction, conducted by the Mack Auction Company, came to over $51,000.

The Hometown Family Fun Day the next day was sponsored by the Estevan Mercury and saw many activities occurring around the community for free or by donation for everyone to enjoy. Local kids could visit and take pictures with Santa Claus at the Estevan Market Mall, write letters to him and his elves at Santa's workshop at the leisure centre, watch free Christmas movies at the Orpheum Theatre, get gifts at Santa's Sleigh, have their faces painted and do some crafts all at Affinity, use up energy at bouncy castles at the Estevan Church of God, go swimming at the pool, and enjoy free milk and cookies at McDonald's. 

In a follow-up interview with the Mercury and SaskToday, Gervais noted that she received a lot of positive feedback from the community, and the Festival of Trees weekend went well.

"The event was successful. It felt like our auctions and our trees sold for great amounts … The totals are still coming in. I can't say that it'll be a record-breaking year, but I do feel that it's going to be fantastic as always," Gervais said. "It's entirely sponsored, so anything that we make is profit … The gala was great, and the same with the hometown Family Fun Day. The Sunday events were very well-attended. We had people at all the events at all times."

She noted the current Hometown Family Fun Day setup with events happening at different locations is working really well, and they hope to continue and grow their offering so that there is something for everyone in the community during the Festival of Trees weekend.

"We want the entire weekend to be something that can be enjoyed by all the different demographics," Gervais said.

Eight tea parties with dainties and entertainment are being delivered to senior living facilities in and around Estevan and to Estevan Diversified Services to ensure everyone in the community is a part of the festival and has an opportunity to enjoy the Christmas spirit.

"In the past, we had a tea afternoon either on the Friday or the Saturday once Affinity was set up, which was wonderful and open to the public, but we did find it was a struggle to get some of the seniors into the Affinity because it was down on the ice surface. And then, once COVID hit, of course, everything changed, so we had done some delivering of tea parties to the different homes so that everybody there could participate," recalled Gervais.

"And last year … we went into all of the [senior living] homes, and we provided entertainment and a tea party and a gift for all the seniors, and they could invite family as well. And this year, we decided to have Christmas tea parties right in the homes again, and we've added a couple of facilities … So that way, they're getting a chance to participate in the Festival of Trees as well."

The weekend loaded with activities brought the community together while raising funds for the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation. Their Christmas wish list this year included five IV pumps ($4,000 each), three syringe pumps ($4,000 each), wheelchairs ($600 each), four blood pressure machines ($2,500 each), a bladder scanner ($12,000), two hospital beds with air mattresses ($26,000), a stretcher with a scale ($8,000), an electrocardiogram machine ($15,000), blanket warmers ($6,000-15,000), an ultraviolet cleaning robot ($75,000), an anesthesia machine ($100,000), and an ultrasound machine for the emergency room ($100,000).

The total for the fundraising efforts wasn't available at press time.

Gervais said they are grateful for all the support.

"We are so fantastically amazed every year by the support of the community. And of course, we couldn't do it without, without my volunteers and without all the extra help. And every year it seems to be getting better and better," Gervais said.