Festival of Trees lights Rehoboth Beach

Delaware Hospice signature fundraiser kicks off annual holiday celebrations.
Breast cancer survivors and coalition supporters, including (l-r) Marilyn Kelius, Connie Holdridge, Barbara Dean, Kathy Wiz and Cheryl Doucette help decorate a tree for the Breast Cancer Coalition and Delaware Hospice's Sussex County Festival of Trees . BY MOLLY MACMILLAN
December 11, 2013

Breast cancer survivors gathered around the Christmas tree and set to the task of decorating the tree with a pink-ribbon bow and beachy ornaments for this year's Festival of Trees Sussex County Hospice fundraiser.

One of as many as 23 Christmas trees and 35 wreaths sponsored and decorated for the Sussex County Festival of Trees, a signature fundraiser for the Delaware Hospice, this tree was sponsored to honor a lost life and bring joy to a survivor, fighting for hers this holiday.

Sponsored by a man who recently lost his wife to breast cancer, the tree will go to woman who is currently battling the disease. Her decorations were ruined in storage and having a Christmas tree decorated for her family was a wish members of the coalition said they were happy to fulfill.

The theme for this tree went beyond pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness. Supporters also procured hand-painted, beach-themed ornaments as a reminder of the coalition's April fundraiser, Broad Walk on the Boardwalk.

"We identify families statewide whose cancer diagnosis and treatment are causing hardship, and they put together a wish list," said Cheryl Doucette, education and outreach manager for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. "We opened up this wish list and first thing they listed was a tree."

The Festival of Trees weekend serves as a kick-off to the holiday season for many and the largest fundraiser for the hospice.

Some trees are sponsored in memory of a loved one, other trees are sponsored by local health organizations, such as a baby tree sponsored by the neonatal unit at Beebe Health Care.

"Every tree has a cause," Delaware Hospice representative Peggy Dolby said. "This is our biggest event of the year in Sussex County."

After trees were decorated, the fundraising Festival of Trees filled a weekend at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center with vendors, Santa visits and visitors eager for holiday cheer.

Individuals and businesses show their support for the work of the hospice with the purchase or sponsorship of a tree or wreath to decorate the convention center during a holiday gala, then the decorations are delivered to homes or sponsored charities.

Each tree has a story, Delaware Hospice social worker Angela Turley said, and often the stories can be sad, but the spirit of the donation is moving.

Turley helped decorate the New Hope tree, sponsored and decorated for a hospice program that supports grieving children.

"Ever year I see a tree, I hear what it's about, and I cry," she said.