Festival of Trees Benefits Cancer Patients
“May your days be merry and bright” is a familiar holiday lyric, but the sentiment has special meaning for cancer patients during the holidays. That’s why “Merry and Bright” is the theme of this year’s Festival of Trees (FOT), a three-day celebration and fundraiser for CARTI (Central Arkansas Radiation Therapy Institute) held Nov. 15-17 at the Clear Channel Metroplex Event Center in Little Rock. Now in its 31st year, the CARTI Auxiliary’s popular festival is expected again to draw scores of Arkansans to its six seasonal events.
CARTI is a nonprofit radiation therapy center with facilities in Little Rock on the St. Vincent, Baptist Medical Center and UAMS campuses, and in Conway, Mountain Home, North Little Rock and Searcy. Last year’s festival netted more than $170,000 for the center, and festival coordinators are hoping to raise even more this year.
An indoor forest of more than 40 elaborately decorated trees adorned in elegant and whimsical holiday ornaments once again anchors the festival, with “Stroll Through the Forest” times set each day for viewing and family picture-taking against the picturesque backgrounds. Other events include the Holiday Luncheon and Style Show, the father-daughter Sugar Plum Ball, breakfast with Santa, the Festival After Dark mixer, Senior Day, and the signature gala, Tux ‘n Trees. Silent and live auctions are part of several of the events, as well as ample opportunities for dancing, mingling, eating, drinking and live entertainment.
Planning any event is hard work, so it’s easy to see why planning the six events for this behemoth November benefit starts in January. This year’s Festival of Trees chair is Heather Vaughn, who started volunteering for FOT 11 years ago when a close friend of her mother’s was treated at CARTI. “It literally takes countless hours of work by dedicated CARTI volunteers and employees, as well as many generous individual and corporate underwriters,” said Vaughn. “It’s a true labor of love for the patients.”
Vaughn said the CARTI Auxiliary carefully selects 15 to 20 committee chairs for the event at the beginning of the year; each chair has at least several volunteers working on their committees. She estimates that besides CARTI employees, at least 50 volunteers work on the events in the months leading up to FOT, with well over 100 volunteers assisting with the event.
She said many couples and families have a long-standing tradition of kicking off the holiday season at FOT, so the auxiliary tries to keep the festival both familiar and fresh each year. The event started in 1976 as a small reception in the CARTI lobby, and as it’s grown in size and complexity over the years, the auxiliary has been able to finesse the events and figure out what works and what doesn’t. The festival, for instance, no longer has the expo-like rows of vendor booths; there is only one vendor this year, plus the auxiliary’s “Deck the Halls” gift shop and “Santa’s Gourmet Shop.” Vaughn said this creates a better use of space and channels any holiday shopping proceeds more directly to the auxiliary to benefit CARTI’s patients.
Likewise, the fashion show models are not all tall, skinny professional models, but include many CARTI patients and survivors who wanted to participate. And Senior Day this year will allow attendees to rest their legs while enjoying a sit-down lecture by Dr. David Lipschitz, director of the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.
Vaughn said that, for her, coordinating the event has been as much fun as attending it each year, “There are so many wonderful, giving people involved in festival from the volunteers to the patients we help. It’s a true reflection of the holiday spirit.”
For ticket and event information visit www.carti.com or call the Festival of Trees office at (501) 660-7634.
Editor’s Note: Fundraising Focus is a recurring feature spotlighting unique benefits for healthcare causes around the state. To suggest an event for inclusion, send event information to email@example.com at least 90 days before the event.
Sidebar: 2007 Festival of Trees Schedule of Events
- Stroll Through the Forest. Thursday, November 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Friday, November 16, 1:30-4 p.m.; and Saturday, November 17, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Ticket prices for “Stroll Through the Forest” are $5 for adults and $3 for children. Children ages two and under receive free admission.
- Senior Day. Thursday, November 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dr. David Lipschitz — director of the UAMS Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and KARN radio personality — will present a free program on important healthcare issues at 10:30 a.m. Tickets prices are $5 for adults under age 55 and $3 for children age 12 and under; adults age 55 and up and children age two and under are admitted free. Free admission for seniors only applies on Nov. 15.
- The Sugar Plum Ball. Billed as a magical evening for little princesses and the Prince Charming of their choice, this mini-gala is a classic daddy-daughter date night complete with a walk down the red carpet and royal treatment that includes a silent auction, dancing, hors d’oeuvres and desserts. (November 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; tickets, $30 each.)
- Holiday Luncheon and Style Show. An elegant ladies’ day out, the luncheon features a flavorful menu served with a full-scale runway show, this year featuring the fashions of Dillard’s and favors by Borghese Cosmetics. (November 16, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; tickets, $50 each.)
- Festival After Dark. Piano wildman Jason D. Williams makes a return appearance at this swinging seasonal party best described as an informal holiday mixer for sophisticated singles and cosmopolitan couples. Party-goers will also get a taste of the season by sampling the offerings of several of Central Arkansas’ most popular restaurants. (November 16, 7 p.m.; tickets, $35 each.)
- Breakfast with Santa. Family fun is paramount at this hearty, holiday meal with the Big Man himself. Arkansas’ own children’s recording star Brian Kinder will provide live entertainment, and children can get their picture taken with Santa. (November 18, 9-10:30 a.m.; tickets, $15 each.)
- Tux ‘n Trees. Fine dining, dancing, live and silent auctions and a rare appearance by Arkansas’ renowned Cate Brothers Band are among the highlights of this formal gala, the cornerstone festival event since 1976. (November 17, 6 p.m.; tickets, $150 each.)
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