Festival of Trees and Lights Celebrates 35 Years

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Festival of Trees and Lights is celebrating 35 years with 84 decorated trees.

The festival began in 1984 with 23 decorated trees from community members. The goal was to promote appreciation and volunteerism for Blank Children’s Hospital.  

Five Harry Potter themed trees are featured this year. Blank children’s Hospital Senior Director of Development, Alissa McKinney believes it is because of the novel’s 20th anniversary.

McKinney said one of the Harry Potter decorated trees comes from a family whose daughter was a patient at Blank Children’s Hospital.

“In honor of their own daughter's cancer journey. She is cancer free now. They always decorate a tree, underwrite that tree and give it to a family who is going through their own cancer journey,” McKinney said.

All money raised is for Blank Children’s Hospital Child Life as well as the Center for Advocacy & Outreach programs.

Child Life are specialists that work with children to reduce both stress and anxiety while at the hospital. The specialists help the children gain a better understanding of what they will experience at the hospital and why. 

Child Life Creative Arts Therapy Manager Julie Pedigo says the children help decorate its tree with a medical theme of everything they experience in the hospital.

“They come down here and they see all of these beautiful trees and they see that they were part of it. I think it is exciting for them. Many of our families have given back They’ve given back and they are doing trees now, because their children were involved in that tree,” Pedigo.

The Center for Advocacy & Outreach’s goal is to keep children out of the hospital. The specialists create programs about safety and injury prevention and provide information about a healthy lifestyle.

Pedigo said 90 children will be remembered this year on its bereavement tree.

“Several years ago, I think it was in the early 2000s, we decided we would start doing a bereavement tree for the children that we have cared for that died at the hospital,” Pedigo said.

All 90 children died at Blank Children’s Hospital this past year.

Each family is able to place a ‘never forget-me heart’ ornament and decorate it. When the festival is over, the ornament is shipped to the family.

McKinney said the festival hopes to reach a milestone this year.

“We have already raised almost $500,000. We are super excited. We have a goal of raising $700,000 this year to hit the $10 million mark in our 35 years that festival has supported Blank Children’s Hospital," McKinney said.

The public is welcomed to attend the Festival of Trees and Lights at the listed times.

  • Wednesday November 21st – 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday November 22nd – 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Friday November 23rd – 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday November 24th – 11:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday November 25th – 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Admission is $5. Children 2 and younger are free.

For the first time children can experience a ‘sock skating rink’ and open paint sessions. Other activities include: ornament making, spin the wheel, cookie decorating, train rides, Santa and more.

The Festival of Tree and Lights is located at the Veteran’s Memorial Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center. It is at 833 5th Avenue, Des Moines.

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