An­nual Fes­ti­val of Trees opens at Bel Air Ar­mory

Pro­ceeds sup­port Can­cer Lifenet

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRAD KRONER

Spe­cial from the Bar­gaineer

— The Ch­e­sa­peake Can­cer Al­liance’s 11th An­nual Fes­ti­val of Trees, a fundraiser for Can­cer Lifenet, kicks off at 5:30 p.m. on Fri­day at the Bel Air Ar­mory.

The three-day fes­ti­val be­gins Fri­day with a pre­view and con­tin­ues into Satur­day and Sunday. Tick­ets for the pre­view are $30 and al­low guests to at­tend the fes­ti­val all week­end long.

The fes­ti­val fea­tures an as­sort­ment of dec­o­rated Christ­mas trees, wreaths and gin­ger­bread houses cre­ated by lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions and in­di­vid­u­als to be sold by si­lent auc­tion all week­end.

Gift bou­tiques, chil­dren’s crafts

BEL AIR

and en­ter­tain­ment, a café and bake ta­ble and more are also avail­able for fam­i­lies to en­joy.

Sto­ry­tellers will tell hol­i­day tales, too. Diane Lyn from 101.9 Lite FM will tell a story at 1:30 p.m. on Satur­day and Kristy Bres­lin from WJZ will tell a story at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus will also be tapped to tell sto­ries to the au­di­ence.

“It’s go­ing to be fun,” said Sandy Guzewich, CCA’s pres­i­dent. “It’s go­ing to be ex­cit­ing.”

The new­est ad­di­tion to the fes­ti­val is a chil­dren’s en­ter­tain­ment area, “which is go­ing to be great fun,” Guzewich said.

“This year we have 18 ven­dors with new and in­ter­est­ing prod­ucts to sell,” she said, adding that they have over 50 dec­o­rated trees, 14 dec­o­rated gin­ger­bread houses and 45 wreaths.

The fes­ti­val is a per­fect ac­tiv­ity for a fam­ily to en­joy the hol­i­day sea­son, Guzewich said. For her, en­joy­ing the fes­ti­val with her fam­ily is her fa­vorite part.

“All of those things, with all my fam­ily, are a very im­por­tant and a very heart­warm­ing part for me,” she ex­plained.

The Fes­ti­val of Trees be­gan 11 years ago as a vol­un­teer’s dream to de­velop a fund­ing stream for Can­cer Lifenet, a pop­u­lar pro­gram at Univer­sity of Mary­land’s Up­per Ch­e­sa­peake Health.

“We started the Fes­ti­val of Trees in 2005,” Guzewich said. “What we were do­ing is, we wanted to raise money to start a can­cer pro­gram at Up­per Ch­e­sa­peake.”

Back then, there was no Can­cer Lifenet pro­gram, she added.

“We were fundrais­ing on dream,” she said.

Guzewich’s dream has come a long way from the fes­ti­val’s first a year, which raised around $10,000. She isn’t sure how many peo­ple at­tended that first fes­ti­val, but she said the fes­ti­val has grown by five times since then.

“It was smaller than it is now,” she said. “We cer­tainly didn’t reach over 2,500 peo­ple.”

Vol­un­teers play a cru­cial role in or­ga­niz­ing the fes­ti­val. In fact, it was a vol­un­teer who first had the idea.

“That was one of our vol­un­teers,” Guzewich said. “She had seen a fes­ti­val trees on the east­ern shore. She had ex­pe­ri­enced a fes­ti­val of trees, liked it, en­joyed it and sug­gested we do it here in Bel Air.”

Vol­un­teers are key to the fes­ti­val’s longevity and suc­cess.

“We have had longevity be­cause each year the vol­un­teers for CCA want to do some­thing big­ger and bet­ter for the Fes­ti­val of Trees,” Guzewich said. “It’s be­ing ini­ti­ated by the vol­un­teers to ex­pand and im­prove the fes­ti­val of trees each year.”

The im­por­tance of the fes­ti­val can­not be un­der­stated, said Jenn Sny­der, UMUCH’s de­vel­op­ment as­so­ci­ate.

Funded en­tirely through phi­lan­thropy, Can­cer Lifenet of­fers ser­vices at no cost to can­cer pa­tients and their fam­i­lies in Har­ford County.

“It’s truly spe­cial be­cause it’s in the 11th year since its in­cep­tion,” Sny­der said. “Since it started, it’s grown sig­nif­i­cantly. Last year, the event raised over $50,000 for can­cer pa­tients. It’s truly amaz­ing.”

Can­cer Lifenet’s op­er­at­ing costs are around $800,000, Sny­der said.

A re­cent gala raised over $1 mil­lion.

“Be­cause of the amount of staff we’re able to have be­cause of the fundrais­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, so many more peo­ple with can­cer are able to re­ceive this care,” Sny­der said.

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