Festival of Trees lights up cancer research

Festival of Trees lights up cancer research

The Chesapeake Cancer Alliance put on their sixth annual Festival of Trees at the Bel Air Armory. The Festival of Trees donates all its profits to the Cecil and Harford county Cancer LifeNet programs.

Kailey Tracy, Copy Editor

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?  In the armory, trees are glistening.  A beautiful sight, Chesapeake Cancer Alliance is happy tonight,  walking in a festival of trees.

White pines, Norway spruces, and evergreens illuminated the Bel Air Armory Nov. 26 and 27 as part of the Chesapeake Cancer Alliance’s (CCA) sixth annual Festival of Trees.   The trees were decorated with themed ornaments that only Santa and his elves could’ve dreamt up, with themes ranging from Christmas at the beach to a tree dedicated to the state of Maryland.

Profits from the tree auctions, admission tickets, and renting fees from 12 vendors that sold Christmas paraphernalia at the event are donated in their entirety to the Cecil and Harford counties Cancer LifeNet programs.  Cancer LifeNet provides aid through the healthcare system for those confronted with a life-threatening illness.  According to CCA co-chair Sandy Guzewich, the organization pledges $75,000-$100,000 per year to Cancer LifeNet.

According to Guzewich, the CCA used their website, Facebook, and the Aegis newspaper, in order to receive donated, ornamented trees.  Preparation and planning for this “keystone event,” as Guzewich calls it, began earlier this year in March.

School Secretary Susan Strawbridge and the Romero Club embellished a tree this year for the event, entitling it “White Christmas” to honor JC’s winter musical.

“This all started last year when I saw that other schools in Harford County presented a tree and John Carroll did not have a tree.  The Romero Club was interested in doing a cancer service project and this seemed to be a good fit,” Strawbridge said.

Seniors Amanda Weerasooriya and Heather Kirwan partook in the event, as well as freshman Annalee Gabler.

“I thought it would be a fun and easy event for a good cause,” Kirwan said.

English teacher Celeste Smith’s advisory donated decorations for the tree.  Health teacher Teresa Gauthier also helped at the event.

“Mrs. Strawbridge asked if I would help, probably because she knows how much I love to decorate for Christmas.  I was happy to be able to help out,” Gauthier said.

In addition to the evergreen wonderland at the festival, hand crafted wreaths and gingerbread houses were sold in silent auctions along with the trees.  The event also featured holiday boutiques selling jewelry, candles, and various Christmas gifts.

Children’s activities such as face painting, story time with Mrs. Claus, gingerbread house sculpting, and holiday bracelet or reindeer headband crafts highlighted the spirit of the season.

Many are involved in the Festival of Trees event and the CCA because of personal motivation.  Guzewich’s two brothers and nephew were afflicted by Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, prompting her to engage in cancer prevention and research organizations on a local level.

“I participated in this for Kyra McPherson. I’ve known her since kindergarten. She had leukemia, but she is finally a cancer survivor.  She beat it this summer. I wanted to show support for her and everyone else battling cancer,” Weerasooriya said.

Recurring donors appeared throughout the congregation of trees like an army of antibodies ready to combat cancer. Previous donor to the Timonium Festival of Trees, Johns Hopkins, decorated five trees alone.  The CCA itself provides evergreens as well.  “Many [trees] are done by members of the CCA.  Almost 80 percent come from within,” Guzewich said.

Kicking off the Christmas season, the Festival of Trees intertwined the holidays with supporting and caring for those with a life threatening illness.  This kindness toward others might be just what the Christmas spirit is all about.

Kailey Tracy is a Copy Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.