OLYMPIA - For many, the Providence St. Peter Hospital Foundation Christmas Forest is an annual tradition, a chance for families to take photos against a backdrop of festive Christmas Trees.
The Thanksgiving Day kickoff to the six-day event, now in its 22nd year, didn’t disappoint as hundreds came to see the 35 trees and 14 wreaths on display at the Red Lion Olympia Hotel, said Kelle Schalin, events manager for the foundation.
During the week, the foundation expects to attract 7,000 people to the event and raise $300,000 to $400,000. The money helps pay medical bills for uninsured patients and to buy medical equipment, Schalin said.
Funds also go to the hospital and other divisions of St. Peter, such as Mother Joseph Care Center and St. Francis House.
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In addition to admission, the foundation raises money from selling raffle tickets and from a gift shop, plus the trees will be sold Tuesday at a gala dinner and auction.
Each tree is sponsored by a business or individual working with a designer or team of designers to come up with a decorative theme for the trees and wreaths.
“A Timeless Christmas” sits alongside a grandfather clock valued at $2,700. “Kickin’ Christmas” was decorated in green and blue Seattle Sounders FC gear, including flags, soccer balls, scarfs and hats.
A wreath was hung above an antique roll-top desk, and a tree called “A Christmas Carol” included a doll-like Scrooge at the base.
The grandfather clock and roll-top desk are among items included in the sale of the trees and wreaths at the gala auction, Schalin said.
Katrina Szabo, her daughter, Madison, and her mother, Marsha Casassa, all of Lacey, come to the Christmas Forest every year, looking for decoration ideas and to take photos.
“It’s a family tradition,” Katrina Szabo said, adding it also is a way for her to give back to St. Peter because she has applied for charity medical care at the hospital.
Lesley Klenk and her daughter, SarahKate, of Olympia said they, too, try to come to the Christmas Forest every Thanksgiving. They look at the trees while the turkey cooks and their husbands watch football at home, Lesley said. Joining the women at the tree display for the first time was mother-in-law Karen Klenk of Winthrop, Minn., who was busy photographing the trees.
Joan Ashcraft, a continuing education coordinator for doctors at St. Peter, said the displays were amazing and inspirational.
“Now I’m all fired up to decorate a tree,” she said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403