Stroll through a Christmas Forest

Fundraiser: Annual hospital display includes trees, wreaths and decorations

LISA PEMBERTON; Staff writerNovember 24, 2011 

Instead of taking a nap, why not walk off that turkey dinner and extra piece of pie at Providence St. Peter Foundation’s Christmas Forest in Olympia?

The festive display of about 20 decorated trees, 15 wreaths and various specialty items runs through Wednesday at the Red Lion Hotel Olympia, 2300 Evergreen Park Drive.

For many South Sounders, a walk through Christmas Forest is just as much a holiday tradition as broiling marshmallows atop candied yams or watching football games on television.

“You’re just overwhelmed by the Christmas feeling,” said Amy Coates, 44, of Olympia, who designed “Happy Hula Days” a display that includes an 11-foot live palm tree for the event. “The looks, the smell, the lights – it just feels like Christmas, even though it’s a bit early.”

Here’s what you need to know about Christmas Forest.

Public viewing hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today; 10 a.m. -8 p.m. Friday; noon-8 p.m. Saturday (with kids activities from noon-6 p.m.); 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday and 3-8 p.m. Wednesday.

Admission: $6 for adults, $1 for children younger than 12. On Friday, admission will be $5 for ages 62 and older.

Special cause: This year, the Providence St. Peter Foundation is trying to raise at least $116,000 through its “Fund-A-Need” program at Christmas Forest.

Proceeds will be used to help create an early mobility program designed to improve a patient’s muscle strength, reduce the effects from sedation and decrease the time spent in St. Peter’s Critical Care Unit.

Fund-A-Need donations can be made at Christmas Forest, or online at providence.org/giving.

It takes a village to build a forest: Each year, more than 300 volunteers donate their time and energy to Christmas Forest. They include designers who create the trees, wreaths and specialty items; high school students who help with set-up and tear-down; retirees who sell raffle tickets for the event and numerous music and dance performers who provide entertainment throughout the week.

In addition, about 60 local businesses donate money and in-kind services for the festivities.

Many of the designers spend months collecting items for their one-of-a-kind trees.

“It’s kind of interesting to see everybody’s imagination; it’s pretty much the sky’s the limit,” said Davey Gagne, 50, of Olympia.

The chainsaw sculptor created a wooden scene for Christmas Forest titled “A Puget Sound Christmas” that features a salmon, an orca tail, a life-size great blue heron and other wildlife that can be found on local beaches.

The wooden sculpture Gagne donated last year – a hillbilly bear pushing a wheelbarrow – sold for about $5,000 at the Christmas Forest auction.

Signature events: In addition to public viewings, Christmas Forest will offer a Santa Breakfast featuring Emmy award-winning Tim Noah at 9 a.m. Saturday, a Silver Bells Breakfast with champagne and live music at 9 a.m. Monday and a Ladies Night Out in the Forest with shopping, sweets and drinks at 6 p.m. Monday. All three programs require tickets and reservations, and are expected to fill up quickly.

Take time to reflect: Remember a loved one, honor the birth of a child or a special friendship during the Light Up a Life ceremony at 7 p.m. Sunday, hosted by Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice. Registration is required, for more information call 360-493-5900.

A major fundraiser: During the past 24 years, Christmas Forest has raised more than $4 million for charity care and medical equipment at Providence St. Peter Hospital, Providence Mother Joseph Care Center, Providence SoundHomeCare and Hospice and the Providence St. Francis House. Much of the money has been used to pay hospital bills for uninsured patients, and buy life-saving medical equipment, foundation officials said.

Tickets ranging from $200-$300 also are still available for the Gala Auction and Dinner which will be from 5-10:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Information: Call 360-493-7981 or go to provforest. org.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

lpemberton@theolympian.com

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