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Festive trees raise funds for hospital

Nicole Essenmacher, right, looks at an intricately decorated tree with her children, Tessa, 3, and Levi, 2, at the Festival of Trees last week. See a full gallery of the trees in the Our Community section on the Sage magazine website at abqjournalsage.com. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

Nicole Essenmacher, right, looks at an intricately decorated tree with her children, Tessa, 3, and Levi, 2, at the Festival of Trees last week. See a full gallery of the trees in the Our Community section on the Sage magazine website at abqjournalsage.com. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

On the fourth day of the Festival of Trees, Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation executive director Jeff Hoehn had a good feeling that the event was well on the way to being the best year ever.

That’s because at noon this past Sunday, when staff members went to swing open the doors to the roomful of decorated trees, a line stretched down the hall of Sandia Resort and Casino.

“Usually Sunday is our slowest day,” says Hoehn, who estimated that 15,000 people came over the four days. That tops the event’s record of about 13,000.

This year, from Dec. 5-8, local businesses and organizations donated and decorated 45 trees. The event featured live entertainment, visits from Santa Claus and an Elves Workshop with craft-making activities for children.

A gallery of the festival is up in the Our Community section on the Sage magazine website at abqjournalsage.com.

Each tree in the festival is unique, decorated with a theme. “These are the best trees we’ve ever had,” says Hoehn.

The People’s Choice winner was “Southwest Origami,” sponsored by SafeCo and decorated by the Albuquerque Origami Society. Hoehn says he definitely had to agree with the tree-voting public, though the ballots showed it was very close. That tree was notable, he says, because of the time and work that went into creating the origami ornaments, which consisted of cranes, chile peppers and luminarias.

Another highlight was a tree decorated by postal carriers with a Route 66 theme, featuring postcards from along the mythic highway.

People who buy trees at the Festival of Trees get them delivered to their home and set up. One hundred percent of the proceeds goes to the foundation, and the tree can be easily packed away and reassembled next year. Each has a bag designed into the tree for quick storage.

The foundation serves 600 special-needs children directly during the year, but reaches another 5,000 by providing state-of-the-art medical equipment through the hospital. That equipment can be the difference in what keeps families with special-needs children in New Mexico. The program extends into services that set families up so their child can leave the hospital – assisting people with accommodations in the home, such as wheelchair ramps or remodeled bathrooms.

The proceeds also support the foundation’s summer sports camp, hand cycling team, wheelchair basketball, collaboration with Keshet Dance Company and therapeutic horseback riding.

“It’s about children with special needs having the best quality of life in New Mexico,” says Hoehn.

And the Festival of Trees event, in its sixth year, does a lot to raise awareness about those programs to the people who come, says Hoehn. “They become ambassadors.”

Carolyn Flynn is the editor of Sage magazine, published quarterly in print and daily online at abqjournalsage.com. Find Sage on Facebook at facebook.com/sageabqjournal and “like” the page to get it in your newsfeed. You may reach the editor at 505-823-3870, sage@abqjournal.com or through Facebook.

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